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Conan O’Brien Deal With NBC Close… Or Already Done?

Conan O’Brien seems close to a deal to leave The Tonight Show, paving the way for a return by Jay Leno.

Nikki Finke calls the deal “close but not yet signed.” Her quote from an insider: “NBC spin puts [the buyout] at $25 million. But it’s a lot closer to $40 million than $25 million.”

The LA Times calls it a done deal and says the announcement may come Saturday from NBC. They put O’Brien’s exit package at “$25 million to $35 million.” (The Wall Street Journal echoes that estimate.)

(The Times also notes that Jay Leno may have some work to do on his image. “The comedian who has painstakingly cultivated a ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ image has suddenly found himself cast as a villain and become a national punch line.”)

MSNBC (and shouldn’t they know?) puts the buyout figure at $30 million but suggests there may be a pay or play clause that would pay O’Brien less if he starts another show within a certain period of time.

More photos of Conan O’Brien >>

(Cartoon image of Conan from South Park.)

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