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Conan’s Exit From Tonight Show Being Finalized

Thus ends the end of a seven-month era.

NBC and Conan O’Brien’s lawyers are reportedly putting the finishing touches on a settlement for the exiting host of The Tonight Show. The network is eager to end this PR nightmare that has quickly turned the Peacock into the butt of jokes or a super-villain. Rumors have been swirling over Conan’s severance package, which is around $40 million and is expected to allow the late-night host to return to TV rather quickly. The agreement is also expected to contain sizable severance packages for Conan’s executive producer Jeff Ross along with the rest of The Tonight Show’s staff who moved with Conan from New York City to Los Angeles. However, it seems those packages are believed to cut into the host’s own package. It’s no surprise. During the 2007-2008 writers’ strike, Conan paid his stable of writers out of his own pocket.

Conan is expected to tape his last Tonight Show this Friday and Jay Leno will return to the desk on March 1st after the 2010 Winter Olympics. NBC, along with Leno, have been the target of other late-night hosts, Conan’s rabid fan base and other celebrities who took shots at the network on its Golden Globes telecast. NBC has also lost millions of dollars building two expensive sets for Leno and O’Brien, which has been a huge money sink thanks to low ratings on both shows.

NBC owns certain intellectual properties used by O’Brien such as Pimpbot 5000 and Conando, as well as recurring segments such as In the Year 3000 and Desk Driving. Sources involved in the settlement negotiations say NBC is keeping the copyrighted and trademarked elements of O’Brien’s shows as part of the deal.

It’s unclear who controls Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the vulgar dog puppet that is perhaps O’Brien’s most popular recurring bit.

NBC retained rights to David Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks and he was not allowed to take it with him when he left NBC for CBS in 1993.

If Conan is free to join other networks, it is expected that he will join Fox. News Corp., Fox’s corporate parent, which has been stated since the beginning of the ruckus that they have been interested in the host. FX and Fox heads, Kevin Reilly and John Landgraf, have expressed “strong interest” in bringing Conan on board.

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