July 29, 2008

Countdown Bosses Forced Me Out

Television presenter Carol Vorderman has spoken of her shock at being forced out of the programme that she loved.

The maths genius, who lives in Portishead, quit Countdown after 26 years after TV bosses told her to take or leave a 90 per cent pay cut and gave her just 48 hours to decide.

The shocked star said she so enjoyed the show she even considered continuing at the drastically reduced rate, but changed her mind after a cruel comment from a Channel 4 boss.

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper, Vorderman said that just before the deadline ran out Friday week ago, she was told: "The show survived easily without Richard Whiteley and it will survive easily without you."

The harsh comment was the final straw for Vorderman, 47, who once described the show's legendary late host as her "soul mate".

Vorderman, who, when the show began in 1982, was the first woman presenter to appear on Channel 4, was further wounded by rumours about her demanding a half a million-pound pay rise.

She said she was speaking out "so that Countdown viewers and all the team know the truth".

In the interview the presenter said: "It's not just like a TV programme to me, that's what's so hard.

"I hadn't demanded more money and I hadn't insisted on the No.1 job. That's all lies. I was pushed into leaving something I love.

"I was forced out, that's the truth."

Vorderman, who is paid up to pounds1 million for 225 episodes a year, was offered less than pounds100,000, according to her agent.

She said: "My agent spoke with the contract people to make the offer and then we heard nothing.

"In the meantime, I heard a rumour they were trying to get rid of me. All this, despite the fact that they were also telling me how much they wanted me to stay."

Vorderman said the idea of her being the main presenter was even suggested at one point - a role she has turned down three times since Whiteley's death.

The row follows a period of turmoil for the programme.

After Mr Whiteley's death in 2005, Des Lynam took over as the show's host but resigned in December 2006. His successor, Des O'Connor, announced he was quitting on Wednesday.

Vorderman said the comment about the show surviving without Whiteley was "callous'.

She said: "I can't bear to hear anyone talking a bout Richard in a dismissive way.

"I loved Richard and he loved me.

"They knew which buttons to press and they were just kicking me. I felt sick and realised that was it."

Vorderman's agent said she sent an SMS to each member of the production team to inform them of her decision to leave before she told the show's bosses. Her contract runs until the end of the year and he said she would be a "true professional" when she resumed filming next month despite the row.

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: "We never discuss presenters' salaries."

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