Report: Leno Back to Tonight Show, Conan Leaves With Big Payday

Posted on January 14, 2010

According to Nikki Finke, the NBC/Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien disaster may be settled very soon. Nikki says there's a tentative deal to put Jay back hosting The Tonight Show at 11:35 p.m. and to pay Conan a lot of money to leave. They had to call in Ron Meyer, the president of Universal to get the parties even to speak to each other.

I've just learned that, for the past 48 hours, Universal Studios President/COO Ron Meyer was secretly drafted during this NBC late night crisis to negotiate a settlement between the network and Team Conan after O'Brien and his reps were threatened by NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker (see below). "Ron is a former agent, one of the biggest in Hollywood. He could get this done, so NBC used him," a source just told me. "No one would talk to each other, and they talked to Ron. He got everybody to talk to everybody."

The deal as sketched puts Jay Leno back hosting The Tonight Show, and Conan O'Brien exiting with a lot of money. But there are still some terms to be worked out -- which is why there hasn't been any announcement yet. But I'm warned that "anything can happen" now that Meyer did his duty, and NBC is back in charge. I can tell you there are definitely people around NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker who want to keep Conan in place at The Tonight Show. "But Zucker is digging in his heels because of the bad press. He's being stubborn," a Team Conan insider just told me.

Jeff Zucker wants Conan gone and he doesn't want to pay him anything. But that's not reasonable, so someone else had to come in to mop up the mess. Nothing's signed yet, so the whole thing could blow up by morning.

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