CELEBRITY

Karl Stefanovic packs his bags

The Today Show hangs in the balance.

It was a rocky week for the Nine Network, as the power struggle to rein in host Karl Stefanovic continued in the wake of the Today show receiving its worst ratings in four years.

The worrying statistics came in as the network’s highest paid presenter was sipping cocktails in Europe on yet another luxury holiday with fiancée Jasmine Yarbrough – right when they needed him the most.

‘Where is his focus? That’s the question that’s being asked at the station,’ reveals our well-placed spy.

‘Everyone is desperate to keep their heads above water, and the star of the show is living it up in Italy for two weeks during their peak season. He has gone too far this time.’

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Adding insult to injury, The Project host Lisa Wilkinson, 58, has come out swinging at her old network, leaving bosses devastated that their secret back-up plan to woo her in to replacing Karl, 43, is in jeopardy.

‘Of course they want her to swoop in and save them,’ our insider explains. ‘Karl would be shown the door without a second thought if they knew they could win back viewers.’

Sensationally quitting her role last October after a pay dispute involving Karl’s eye-watering $2 million salary, it seems veteran star Lisa had an ulterior motive in deserting the sinking ship, with her husband Peter FitzSimons admitting they knew the situation was dire.

‘Something will have to break. It cannot go on in the current form past Chrissie, surely,’ the journalist and author tweeted. ‘I have followed the numbers closely. Today would not have been this low for at least 10 years.’

The scathing comments have since been deleted, and Peter later admitted they were private views he’d accidentally published in error. And, in describing it as his own ‘Ubergate’ moment, he seemingly took a final swipe at  his wife’s former co-host.

By Lisa’s own admission, she’s having ‘the year from hell’ since jumping ship to The Project, and those close to the star wouldn’t be surprised if she were to consider a move back to Today.

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However, TV executives have been wondering if they’ve left it too late to beg Lisa for forgiveness.

‘The numbers don’t lie,’ says our source. ‘And viewers don’t like the tension with Georgie and Karl. But even though they would love for Lisa to come back, Nine bosses know she has signed a contract at Ten and they don’t know if they can survive without her for that long, so they have been forced to consider all options.’

Today has been dominated by Channel Seven’s Sunrise this year with Kochie and Sam winning the ratings battle of 23 out of the 24 survey weeks. The facts can’t be ignored and there only seems to be one person to blame.

‘Karl hardly ever wakes up with Today,’ says our spy. ‘Karl does what Karl wants to do and at the moment that seems to be spending time planning his wedding and sharing happy snaps on Instagram.’

However, following his European jaunt, which was a possible early celebration ahead of his August 12 birthday, Karl is back on air. As the star gears up to host a telethon later this month in aid of the current drought crisis hitting rural Australia, there’s no arguing that, despite his recent on-air absence, the long-time presenter is always ready to step in during a crisis.

But amid the current unrest at the network, let’s hope Karl’s heart is still at Nine.

For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea, on sale now.  

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