Why Regis Philbin Is Saying Farewell to 'Live!': Inside the Talk Show Host's Departure

David Russell/ABC Domestic TV
Regis Philbin

Sources reveal to THR the reasons why Philbin is actually leaving his series after more than 20 years at the helm of the morning talker.

As Regis Philbin walks onto the New York set of Live With Regis And Kelly for the last time Friday, Nov. 18 as the official host,  many of his longtime fans wonder why they won’t be sharing their morning with him every day beginning next week.

Philbin has been cryptic about his reasons, but even at age 80 after over 56 years on TV in L.A. and New York,  he has repeatedly insisted he is not retiring. He also has said how much he has enjoyed the show he has done since 1988 (first with Kathie Lee Gifford and since 2001 with Kelly Ripa).

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Some said Philbin was finally tired of the daily grind, the early hours and wanted an easier life.

After he said he would leave in early 2011, there were a flurry of stories that said Philbin had balked when told Disney wanted to lower his compensation, which under a contract negotiated in 2008 is reportedly about $21 million a year.  That contract also was very restrictive in term of what he could do outside of the show.

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Philbin denied it was over salary and said they had never even reached the point of a salary negotiation.

He still isn’t going into detail, but several sources tell THR it was actually a combination of the two factors.

Philbin had apparently been thinking of taking it easier for some time. His show schedule requires him to get up in the wee hours of the morning, and makes living a normal life difficult since he has to go to bed early.

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Then when his agent at the time Jim Griffin went in to talk to Disney, sources say he was told the syndication business was soft and the show wasn’t pulling as big numbers as it had. They also apparently brought up how much time Philbin takes off each year.

The bottom line was what mattered, however: It was still a success, but not as big a success, so sources said they were still willing to pay him a lot, but not as much as he had been getting.

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Disney officially declined comment on this article and off the record sources said Philbin made clear he wasn’t fired.

Philbin did, however, feel slighted by being asked to take a pay cut. That appears to have triggered his decision to quit the show and seek other options in show biz. He has said in interviews they never got to a discussion of salary specifics, which seems to be true, because he walked when they said it would be for less.

Not long after it became public and irreversible, Philbin fired his longtime agent and signed with the William Morris Endeavor talent agency for representation.

Philbin, who already holds the Guinness Book record for hosting the most hours of TV – having done almost 17,000 hours of live TV -- clearly plans to look for new challenges, and undoubtedly will find them.

First, however, he will travel and do media appearances to promote his latest book How I Got This Way.

But it appears he is leaving behind the talk format he didn’t invent, but arguably did perfect: Where the first 20 minutes or so of the show are an unscripted chat about his life, the city, the world and his many famous pals. It made it very personal for viewers who felt they came to know him, and that clearly will be missed by millions.