IT'S OFFICIAL... MEET THE NEW KARL!
With embattled host Karl a deadman walking on Today, his close mate and family man Ben Fordham has his job – if he really wants it!
Nine will offer Ben Fordham the plum co-hosting role on their failing breakfast show in a desperate bid to contain the “toxic” fallout from Karl Stefanovic’s plummeting popularity.
“He’s the only one management want to fill Karl’s shoes,” confirms one network insider. “He ticks every box. He’s very likeable and engaging. He’s smart and dedicated.
“But most of all, he’s the complete package – a devoted family man with a proven track record and a broad fan base.”
WIFE & KIDS FIRST
The biggest problem facing Nine management is convincing 2GB drivetime star Ben to take the role. He has maintained for months that he isn’t interested in taking on the punishing 3am starts required for Today.
“His daughter Pearl just turned two last week, and Benny will always put his wife and kids first,” reveals one close friend. “Naturally he’s worried the hours will completely unhinge their lives. And I know he and [wife] Jodie [Speers] are trying for their third child.”
Ben, 41, was a regular on Today until six years ago and has filled in for Karl during his annual summer holidays as well as co-hosting Australian Ninja Warrior. However, his focus in recent years has been radio and being the best dad possible to Pearl and three-year-old son Freddy.
“I can’t see him accepting it next year, but Ben is the first one to say ‘never say never’, and now that 2GB and Nine are the same company, a lot can change fast,” expl explains the network insider. “If the CEO thinks Ben is more valuable to Today T than 2GB, it’s going to be very hard for him to say no.”
Nine also isn’t going to have much change out of $2 million if it wants to get Ben.
“He makes a mint at 2GB with his salary package, which includes huge bonuses, and big bucks for live reads from dozens of sponsors, so it’s going to have to be an eye-watering sum to get him to sign on the dotted line,” our source says.
And it isn’t just management that wants Ben to replace Karl. Today stars Georgie Gardner and Deb Knight are also lobbying management to get him on contract, and promising to do whatever they can to help make it work.
BIG CHANGES AHEAD
“Georgie particularly is pushing for Ben to sign. Since Ubergate [when Peter Stefanovic and Karl bitched about Georgie and others] she can barely be civil with Karl, and it remains a little tense with Sylvia, too!”
It’s widely accepted in the TV industry that major changes are necessary to save ailing Today. Director of morning TV Mark Calvert is also expected to be axed at the end of the year, clearing the way for a complete revamp.
“The hot rumour is that they will keep Dickie [Richard Wilkins] and Georgie and get rid of the rest,” our source says, adding there have even been discussions about trying to poach Seven presenter Edwina Bartholomew from Sunrise.
‘He ticks every box. He’s very likeable, engaging and smart’
Ben is friends with Today co-host Georgie.
Karl (with fiancee Jasmine Yarbrough) is set to lose his role on Today.