BILLY ’ S UGLY EXIT FROM NBC
Billy Bush prepared to sue the network, but Today fought back. The untold story of their breakup
NBC meant business. Less than two days after leaked audio of the now-infamous lewd exchange between Donald Trump and Billy Bush (recorded on a 2005 Access Hollywood hot mic) made headlines on Oct. 7, network executives publicly announced that they’d suspended Billy from his duties at Today “pending further review.” Privately, a source tells In Touch exclusively, “They sent a messenger to his house to retrieve his keys and NBC key card and revoked his email access.” Any hopes Billy had that the debacle would blow over were quickly crushed as things went from bad to worse: Within days, widespread reports revealed he was, as a network insider put it, “facing the ax.”
But Billy didn’t go down without a fight. After realizing his days were numbered, he hired prominent LA attorney Marshall Grossman, who came out swinging. “Whether Billy had been passive or responded, ‘Shut the f--- up’ to Trump [after the businessman turned politician made misogynistic and predatory comments about women], Billy would have been out of a job the next day,” the litigator said on Oct. 13. Billy, 45, “threatened to sue NBC over how his exit from Today is being handled,” says the insider. “He took them on because he felt that he became the fall guy for Donald’s comments.” Once he realized NBC was never going to let him back on Today, he went into warrior mode, and In Touch has all the details of one of TV’S ugliest breakups.
It quickly got nasty. “NBC didn’t want to pay Billy the remainder of his contract, which is $3 million per year for three years,” says the insider. “So they tried to play hardball.” During the intense negotiations, Billy felt be-
trayed. “It’s been incredibly hurtful to him because he’s been at NBC for almost 15 years, and then all of a sudden, three minutes of an audio clip have ruined his career and left him out in the cold.” The insider adds that Billy fought to save his reputation. He found himself with few colleagues in his corner while standing up to the network.
When he joined Today in August, Billy was gunning for Matt Lauer’s job. That changed quickly, and as Billy negotiated his way out of his contract, he only wanted a lumpsum settlement and a chance to move on. “He knows he’s damaged goods at this point, but he insisted that NBC void the noncompete clause of his contract that would prohibit him from working for another network for three years,” says the insider. In the end, Billy and Today wanted the same thing: to move on without each other. And NBC realized it was going to have to pay to get rid of him. Billy’s insistence on a payout infuriated many NBC employees but no one wanted a long, drawn-out battle, and in the end that became the most important thing for both sides. ◼
NO LOVE LOST “Almost everyone on the Today staff loathed Billy,” an NBC source says of co-hosts including Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie.
IN THE COLD “Billy feels very betrayed by friends at the network who haven’t stepped up to his defense,” says an insider.
TALE OF THE TAPE “The news division is facing some very tough questions” about why they didn’t release the tape of Donald and Billy’s lewd comments before meeting actress Arianne Zucker.