It’s official: Karl Stefanovic has been axed from Nine’s Today show after 14 years in the host’s chair.
“Nine and Karl Stefanovic have agreed it is time for him to step off the Today show,” Darren Wick, the network’s director of news and current affairs, said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
“Karl remains on contract with the network and will continue to host This Time Next Year, which records in February.”
The dumping comes as Stefanovic, 44, is believed to still be on his honeymoon in North America with new wife Jasmine Yarbrough, 34.
A week after his days-long Mexican wedding, a bearded Karl beamed leaving a Japanese restaurant in the upmarket ski resort town of Aspen with Yarbrough, billionaire best mate James Packer and the casino mogul’s girlfriend Kylie Lim on Sunday.
But Karl was less upbeat in a statement attributed to him and released by Nine on Wednesday.
“It’s been a tough time,” Stefanovic acknowledged in a two-paragraph statement.
Rumours he would lose the Today gig have swirled for months, with Nine insiders telling The New Daily Karl would not be in the chair next year and that the network was actively scouting for his replacement.
Hours before the news broke, The New Daily asked Nine if Stefanovic would be returning to Today in 2019. “We won’t be commenting on speculation,” a spokesperson said.
It was reported Nine bosses and Stefanovic’s manager met on Wednesday to discuss his future.
The ultimate reason for the former golden boy’s downfall? Ratings.
Since his split with former wife Cassandra Thorburn, which has turned messy, public perception of the father-of-three changed and audience numbers for the breakfast show have dived.
Aside from the PR disaster of his imploded marriage followed by public distaste for his relationship with shoe designer Yarbrough, Karl lacked chemistry with co-host Georgie Gardner, 48, who replaced Lisa Wilkinson in January.
Worse, he was embroiled in March in ‘Ubergate’, where he and brother Peter Stefanovic were overheard dissing colleagues.
Weekend Today journalist Peter, 37, parted ways with Nine on Tuesday night after 15 years with the network.
“Peter has decided to explore new opportunities and is looking forward to spending weekends with his wife [Sylvia Jeffreys],” the statement said.
“We wish him all the best for the future.”
While Peter’s axing was a surprise, Karl’s wasn’t – but it’s a much bigger story.
A Gold Logie winner and Nine’s previous go-to man for everything from the Paris terrorism attacks to 60 Minutes puff pieces on Olivia Newton-John, he is the network’s highest paid star.
Stefanovic reportedly has a year to run on his contract, estimated to be around $2 million a year.
Aside from the “tough time” acknowledgement, the rest of Stefanovic’s sign-off was a carefully-crafted upbeat tribute to the employer who had just shown him the door.
“For the last 14 years I’ve co-hosted the best show on television,” he said.
“I can’t thank Nine enough for the opportunity. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be good enough to host this grand show for so long.”
Stefanovic also thanked viewers, saying “you are what matters most … thanks for hanging in there.”
A TV insider who has worked at Nine said Karl may not be “too surprised or disappointed” by losing his gig.
“He has been booted from a show that he seemed keen to leave anyway, gets a sleep in after more than a decade of waking up at 3am and will be doing virtually nothing while he serves out a multi-million dollar contract.”
Praising Karl’s “unique personality” and the “perspective” he brought to Today, Mr Wick said an announcement on the new lineup and format of the show will be made in the coming weeks.
There are rumours that Today’s newsreader Jeffreys, 32, might follow her husband Peter Stefanovic out the door, although she is said by Nine insiders to be valued by the network.
On Monday, it was reported Today’s veteran entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins, 64, is also in the gun.
As to what Karl might do next, media analyst Steve Allen told The New Daily in September amid a round of Stefanovic rumours that, “I don’t think there would be a rush for him at another network and there’s not many places he could go.
“Sunrise isn’t about to change their lineup and Ten aren’t going to take a punt. He’ll survive, no question, he’s still talent, but he’s going to have to reinvent himself.”