UPDATE: LONDON — Andy Wilman, the exec producer of BBC’s “Top Gear,” has left the program, according to BBC News.
The news comes hours after James May, one of the three presenters of the motoring show, said he won’t return to the program without sacked co-host Jeremy Clarkson. The BBC would not confirm if Wilman’s departure was also related to Clarkson’s exit, although the two were old friends.
There had been speculation that the British broadcaster would replace Clarkson while retaining his co-hosts, May and Richard Hammond. But May told the Guardian: “Me and Hammond with a surrogate Jeremy is a non-starter, it just wouldn’t work. That would be lame, or ‘awks’ as young people say.”
He added: “It has to be the three of us. You can’t just put a surrogate Jeremy in and expect it to carry on. It would be forced. I don’t believe they would be stupid enough to try that.”
May suggested that the three may return to the show eventually. “It doesn’t mean I won’t go back; we may all go back in the future. It might just be we have a break from it. I don’t know.”
He added: “In the future, when all this has blown over, there might be an opportunity for three of us to get back together on the BBC to do ‘Top Gear’ or a car show of some sort.”
The contracts of all three hosts expired last month. After Clarkson admitted to an altercation with the show’s producer Oisin Tymon, BBC boss Tony Hall decided that Clarkson would not return to the show.
Kim Shillinglaw, the head of “Top Gear’s” channel BBC2, said Tuesday that Clarkson could return to the broadcaster. “Jeremy will be back on the BBC,” she said. “It is serious and unfortunate what happened, but there is no ban on Jeremy being on the BBC. It’s a big deal what happened, and Jeremy, as any human being would, needs some time out.”
The three hosts could also reunite with a new motoring show at a rival broadcaster, such as ITV, or a streaming service, like Netflix. But May said that a non-compete clause in the contracts of one or more of the three would likely stop this from happening in the short term.