Phillip Schofield reportedly believes he has “been hung out to dry” by Holly Willoughby – and their once warm relationship is now “in tatters”.
The star was axed from This Morning after a tense showdown with bosses in a trade-off that could protect his other ITV roles. Schofield, who fronted the show for 18 years, had faced intense scrutiny since a reported rift with co-host Willoughby spilled out into the public domain.
Insiders last night revealed that his fate had been unanimously decided in meetings at ITV Daytime on Friday. Bosses then set up a call with Phil’s management company YMU in order to break the news.
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“He was upset but firm that if he was going to walk away he wanted to keep his roles on The Cube, the British Soap Awards, and Dancing on Ice – crucially with or without Holly.
“And they agreed to the terms he laid out. As far as he was concerned, if he was going to take one for the team, they would owe him.
“It has all been worked out in the smoothest way possible, but behind the scenes he has told friends he has been hung out to dry. And his friendship with Holly is now in tatters.
It is understood Emma Gormley, Head of Daytime, and Kevin Lygo, Head of Programmes, then spoke to the 61-year-old daytime TV star. It appears he agreed to walk away on the basis that conversations about his roles on other shows like Dancing on Ice remain active – and he was promised a new show which he will host by himself.
A source said: “Phil’s fate was decided on Friday. It was a unanimous decision that he had to go.
“It is hard to see how it could recover. The fact he chose to pointedly thank people who supported him – and the viewers – without mentioning her says it all.”
Phil’s announcement yesterday in a statement on Instagram that he was stepping down in a bid to “protect the show that I love” came after two weeks of on-screen awkwardness and ratings going into freefall.
According to The Mirror, sources say he and Holly, 42, have not spoken since the decision was made, and while she issued a short statement paying tribute to her former best pal, his statement notably made no mention of her. Phil’s contract was up for renewal in September, but he will no longer appear on the show.
Behind the scenes he was said to have complained to sympathisers that he had “been hung out to dry” by his co-star Holly and TV chiefs.
Phil’s statement, released on Instagram just before 4pm, read: “I have always been proud to cover fascinating stories on This Morning. But recently This Morning itself has become the story. Throughout my career in TV – including the very difficult last few days – I have always done my best to be honourable and kind.
“I understand that ITV has decided the current situation can’t go on and I want to do what I can to protect the show I love. So I have agreed to step down from This Morning with immediate effect, in the hope the show can move forward to a bright future. I’d like to thank everyone who supported me – especially This Morning’s amazing viewers – and I’ll see you all for the Soap Awards next month.”
In a statement released by ITV, Holly wrote: “It’s been over 13 great years presenting This Morning with Phil and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for all of his knowledge, his experience and his humour. The sofa won’t feel the same without him.”
She also posted the message on Instagram with a love heart. But sources said she is relieved the drama is over – after urging bosses to tackle the crisis. The source continued: “The advantage of this happening now is that summer is not far off and Holly can return in September with a new-look show.
“The rift has really taken its toll and she was seriously considering quitting. The tables have really turned now and she is in the strongest position ever – with ITV keen to make the most of the opportunity to lock her in.”
ITV bosses are certainly thought to be viewing his departure as an opportunity to keep Holly at the channel. There were particular concerns after she started to build a relationship with the BBC while hosting reality show Freeze the Fear with Wim Hof.
Holly and Phil once had tremendous chemistry. But in recent days viewers saw them exchange an awkward kiss, winced at Holly’s reaction when he talked over her during an interview – and the pair looked less than close during their last show together on Thursday.
It all came at a torrid time for Phil. He took three weeks off as his brother Timothy, 54, stood trial for sexual offences involving a child. He was jailed for 12 years on Friday – after Phil disowned him in a statement.
Phil’s place on the sofa will be filled by other ITV hosts, with Alison Hammond as the main back-up to Holly. During a recent stretch of programmes where Phil was absent, Alison took up his place on the sofa next to Holly and their chemistry together delighted both audience and ITV chiefs.
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