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CBS Signs Bryant Gumbel to Prime-Time Spot, Sources Say

Company Town

March 13, 1997|JANE HALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CBS has signed former NBC "Today" show anchor Bryant Gumbel to a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract that will move him from early mornings to prime time, sources said Wednesday.

The network is expected to announce today that it has lured Gumbel with an unusual offer that includes hosting a prime-time newsmagazine and making him a partner in developing syndicated programming with CBS' Eyemark Entertainment.

The deal--which includes stock options in Westinghouse Electric Corp., CBS' parent--is said to be worth more than $5 million a year and gives him potentially lucrative ownership in the syndicated programs that he will anchor and help produce.

Gumbel, 48, is said to have wanted to own a piece of the programming he was involved in, which is part of the reason CBS' syndication deal was important to him. No other major network anchor has had such an arrangement for profit participation in the programs he fronts.

The CBS pact also calls for Gumbel to host four celebrity-interview specials a year, similar to those Barbara Walters does for ABC.

Representatives of CBS and Gumbel declined to comment, but CBS has scheduled a news conference for this morning.

All three broadcast networks had sought to sign Gumbel since he left "Today" in January after 15 years at the helm of the venerable morning program. NBC executives even kept him on the payroll and gave him office space in hopes he would stay with them.

But the network did not have much to offer him in the way of a starring role, sources said. Tom Brokaw is continuing as anchor of "NBC Nightly News," and there are numerous other anchors already working on the "Dateline NBC" newsmagazine.

Sources said that ABC dropped out of the negotiations Wednesday when management balked at giving Gumbel stock options. But he reportedly was also concerned about the change in management at ABC News last week, when Roone Arledge was elevated to chairman of the division, with David Westin assuming the title of president.

Gumbel began his TV career in 1972 as a sports reporter at KNBC-TV Channel 4 in Los Angeles. He moved to NBC Sports a few years later and took over the "Today" show in 1982.

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