Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Regis Philbin surprised the TV world with his announcement yesterday morning that he will be leaving Live with Regis and Kelly later this year. Well, it shouldn’t be inconceivable for someone pushing 80 to consider retirement, but the fact of the matter is that Philbin is not retiring. Far from it. He is going for a major life and career change that is being complemented by a big representation  change. Philbin has left Paradigm, where he had been represented by his agent of 25 years Jim Griffin, to go to WME. This marks a homecoming of sorts for Philbin who had been at WMA for decades until following Griffin to Paradigm in 2009 after 30-year WMA veteran Griffin was let go in the fallout from the WME-Endeavor merger. (But WME kept the packaging fee on Live via the merger.)

During his 23 years on Live, Philbin has been doing a lot of side gigs, mostly hosting (most famously, ABC’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire). But now, with his full-time gig over, I hear he is looking to do a lot more, which prompted his move to WME.

As for Live, I hear producer Buena Vista TV was ready to offer Philbin a lengthy new deal. (Last time Philbin signed a new deal for Live was in 2007, the same time the show was renewed. Both deals expire at the end of this season.) Philbin had already scaled back, he only does the show Monday-Thursday, with guest co-hosts sitting next to Kelly Ripa on Fridays (Ashton Kutcher will do so this Friday.) Some  sources say he didn’t want to commit to another long-term deal and told his bosses he wanted a life change, something that took them by surprise. Other sources claim that he left over a proposed salary cut. Philbin has two milestones to celebrate during the final season on the show: the 10th anniversary of Live with Regis and Kelly next month (Ripa was named permanent Live co-host on Feb. 5, 2001) and his 80th birthday in August. I guess you can kick your career into high gear after 80 if you are Regis Philbin. Or Betty White.

TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.

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