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!

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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.

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