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ABC Execs Were Convinced Matt Lauer Was Coming To ABC Last Year, Report Says

Matt Lauer and Today have been the subject of many rumors and much analysis over the past few months, and a new story by Joe Hagan in New York magazine this week takes an in-depth look at Lauer’s relationship with the morning show and its “implosion.” Of course, much of the story takes a look into the ordeal surrounding Ann Curry‘s exit, but it includes one particularly interesting nugget: At one point, ABC executives were convinced Lauer was making the move to their network.

In the wake of learning of Curry’s exit, Lauer had a window of time in which to pursue other opportunities, which he appeared to take seriously, the story notes, “possibly a negotiating tactic.” Working with then-NBC head Jeff Zucker, Lauer had developed an idea for a show with Katie Couric (Lauer would be a co-host on a daytime show with Couric as well as an ABC News personality). Lauer also met with Bob Iger, CEO of Disney (ABC’s parent company) and ABC News’ Ben Sherwood.

The three, it appears, were solidly under the impression Lauer would be heading to ABC:

What happened next would color everything that happened ­after: For a few days in late March, Iger, Zucker, and Sherwood all believed they had been told by both Lauer and his agent, Ken Linder, that Lauer was coming to ABC. In their minds, the deal was done, with only the legalities to be worked out.

And they were wrong, receiving a “thanks but no thanks” call soon afterward. Getting Lauer to NBC was seen has a way to topple NBC’s “house of cards” and help propel Good Morning America. So it followed that Lauer declining the offer did not go over well:

Iger was infuriated, as was Zucker. Sherwood would not soon forget: In the months to come, he would spend an inordinate amount of time poking at Lauer and reveling in Schadenfreude.

Much of the rest of the story goes into the Lauer’s public perception as the villain in this story — the blame he received for Curry’s departure (Lauer “simply didn’t like” Curry, Hagan writes) and the barrage of media coverage it received. Hagan spoke to the cast of Today, asking why Curry never helped repair the image.

“You’d have to ask her that,” Al Roker replied. Asked whether Lauer himself ever reached out to Curry to about helping the perception, Lauer said he didn’t. It wasn’t his focus, he noted.

“Because I’m concentrating on doing the show,” Lauer said, “not concentrating on spinning the damage and trying to end the negativity on a daily basis.”

Read the full story here.

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