Leno to hand over reins

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 12:00am

Jay Leno (above left), America's leading late-night comedian as host of NBC's The Tonight Show, will retire in 2009 and be replaced by Conan O'Brien (above right), an offbeat comic whose own show airs an hour later, the network has announced.

In a statement, Leno, 54, said he'd been planning to turn the US television institution he inherited in 1992 from Johnny Carson over to O'Brien since March, when Leno extended his contract for another five years until 2009.

The move is seen as a way to stop O'Brien from being poached by other networks.

'In 2009, I'll be 59 years old and will have had this dream job for 17 years,' Leno said.

'When I signed my new contract, I felt that the timing was right to plan for my successor, and there's no one more qualified than Conan. Plus, I promised [my wife] Mavis I'd take her out for dinner before I turned 60.' Reuters