After a quarter century, Larry King announced tonight that he will be ending the long-standing “Larry King Live” show this fall but will stay on in some unspecified capacity at CNN.
He said he plans to do specials and spend more time with his family. “It’s time to hang up the nightly suspenders,” he said on his show at 9 p.m. “Until then, we have more shows to do and who knows what the future will bring.”
“There was no pressure from CNN,” he told guest Bill Maher. “It was time.” He also said there was no pressure from the media hordes. “I want new horizons and try other things,” he said. “There’s a freedom.” He noted he has done more than 50,000 interviews.
Reports have Piers Morgan as a possible replacement.
Here’s the memo sent out by CNN/US president Jon Klein, who declined to say anything about King’s departure last Wednesday after the Eliot Spitzer/Kathleen Parker announcement:
NOTE TO STAFF
TO: CNN Colleagues
FR: Jon Klein
Larry King has asked that I share with you a message to his audience that will be broadcast tonight at the top of his show. After 25 years, Larry has decided to take a step back from the nightly grind. He wants to take some time for himself and his family. So he will end his run with Larry King Live on his own terms, sometime this fall.
He is not leaving CNN. Larry is a beloved member of the CNN family and he will continue to contribute to our air with periodic specials.
Larry has been a giant in the industry for as long as most of us can remember. Anyone who ever mattered has sat for an interview on Larry’s iconic set. They all know the man it is our privilege to call our colleague and friend–tireless and curious, respectful and inquisitive, caring, generous, influential, a citizen of the world.
We will celebrate his tenure in proper fashion over the coming months. Today is about Larry and about the beginning of a new chapter. It is not about good-bye.
Given King’s age, people have been speculating about his retirement for years, but his ratings held up – until recently. With viewers disappearing sharply, the rumors have amped up even stronger in recent weeks that the end was near. Last Monday, a telethon for oil spill victims drew only 600,000 viewers and $1.8 million in donations. To make matters worse, he’s had his fair share of recent personal turmoil regarding his wife.
The interview show debuted on CNN in 1985, long before MSNBC and Fox News. For years, it was CNN’s top-rated prime-time show.
King has always prided himself on doing very little prep and being fair to his interviewees. Many critics found him scattered and too softball. Nonetheless, he interviewed almost every prominent person over the years you can think of, including Tammy Faye Bakker, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Monica Lewinsky, Johnny Cash, Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.
Ryan Seacrest, a frequent substitute for Larry on his show and possible replacement, on Twitter: You’re a legend @kingsthings. One of a kind.