O’Brien’s manager, Gavin Polone, got on the phone Saturday to deny a New York Post/Page Six report that O’Brien’s staff was upset about not being compensated as “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” shuts down.
“That’s a complete lie,” Polone said. “I’ve been in the room every time, and point number one for (O’Brien) has been and will always be that they take care of his staff in a first-rate manner.”
Polone noted that O’Brien paid his “Late Night” team out of his own pocket while the show was shut down during the Writers’ Strike.
“He has not wavered on this,” Polone said. “If they do not appropriately handle the settlements and severance for the staff, then there’s no deal. We would litigate.”
Those payouts could prove to be a pretty penny for NBC, which is believed to be shelling out between $30 million and $40 million as part of O’Brien’s exit package.
O’Brien’s executive producer, Jeff Ross, also has a hefty contract that would need to be paid out, while the show’s other talent and staffers — from members of the Max Weinberg 7 to Andy Richter, the show’s writers, all the way down to its janitorial team — would need to be paid.
Until the exit pact is finalized, O’Brien’s reps are holding out hope that they might still convince NBC to reverse course and keep the host at 11:35 p.m.
That’s looking virtually impossible at this point, however.
For now, O’Brien’s staff are prepping a farewell week of shows for “The Tonight Show,” leading to a Friday night blow-out. Among the rumored potential guests for that last episode: Tom Hanks.
Meanwhile, after the pact with NBC is finalized, O’Brien’s reps have another big job in front of them: Hammering out a deal (probably with Fox) for his new show. Under the arrangement, O’Brien could go on the air as soon as September.