Conan O’Brien $40 million Buyout by NBC

Conan O’Brien is reportedly close to signing a $40 million deal to walk away from “The Tonight Show” and end a weeks-long controversy between the late-night host and NBC.

The agreement could come as early as Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal. The potential deal would bar O’Brien from “bad-mouthing” his former bosses at NBC but would allow him to take another television job within one year, the Journal said.

The possible departure comes after the network tried to push “The Tonight Show” back from its 11:35 p.m. ET slot, where it had been for decades, to just after midnight.

Under the potential deal, Jay Leno would be reinstated as host of “The Tonight Show,” a post he held for 17 years, according to the Journal.

The scheduling changes stemmed from NBC’s abrupt decision earlier this month to cancel “The Jay Leno Show,” which aired at 10 p.m. ET. The show had received lukewarm ratings, and NBC said it would go off the air Feb. 12, when the 2010 Winter Olympics begin.

O’Brien rejected the change and said in a Jan. 12 letter addressed to “People of Earth” that moving the show back would “seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.”

At that point, NBC switched from trying to mollify O’Brien to seeking the most expeditious way to push him out, the Journal said.

O’Brien, who moved his family and staff to Los Angeles as part of his short tenure at “The Tonight Show,” is reportedly feeling burned by NBC.

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