Vorderman left Countdown over 90% 'take it or leave it' pay cut

Carol Vorderman

Setting the record straight: Carol Vorderman says: 'I'm devastated it's ended this way'

Countdown co-host Carol Vorderman left the show during a bitter dispute with the programme’s producers – who told
her to take a 90 per cent pay cut or stand down, it has been claimed.

Details of the extraordinary ultimatum, which resulted in the end of one of the longest-running presenter deals in British television history, surfaced last night.

According to Miss Vorderman’s manager John Miles, the take-it-or-leave-it demand was made to her 11 days ago.

Despite her 26 years’ service selecting the letters and solving complicated mathematical problems on the popular teatime Channel 4 quiz, Miss Vorderman was given just 48 hours to make a decision.

In the event, she was beaten to the punch by programme-makers ITV Productions, who dispensed with her as she was chewing over the ramifications of renewing her contract.

Miss Vorderman earned £1.2million a year for 40 days’ work.

On average, she would have to record a demanding five programmes a day.

There had been rumours that she had threatened to leave Countdown unless she was paid more.

But Mr Miles said: ‘On July 16 my office received the first offer of a new contract from ITV Productions.

‘It was a harsh fait accompli – take a 90 per cent cut, you have 48 hours until noon on July 18 to make up your mind. It was a non-negotiable take-it-or-leave-it offer.

‘I discussed the options with Carol but she expressed a desire to stay.

'On July 18 we were still considering the ITV Productions offer when they said,

“Countdown easily survived without Richard Whiteley. It can easily survive without you.” It was that callous.’

Carol Vorderman

Veteran: Carol in action on Countdown where she worked for 26 years. She said the show has been 'a huge part' of her life

Initial reports about Miss Vorderman’s departure had blamed tight budgets at Channel 4 and the current advertising downturn – insinuating that Miss Vorderman was not happy with her salary, according to her manager.

In fact, Mr Miles said, his client was prepared to accept a one-third pay cut, in line with a 33 per cent budget cut imposed on the show.

He scotched what he described as ‘off-the-record media briefings’ and said that he felt obliged to set the record straight.

Miss Vorderman, 47, was the first woman to appear on Channel 4 when it launched in 1982.

Carol Vorderman & Des O'Connor

Slump: The show's viewing figures have dropped from three million to just 1.7million viewers

The Cambridge engineering graduate saw off hundreds of hopefuls to win the co-host’s role opposite Mr Whiteley, who presented the show from the first episode until his death in 2005.

Princess Margaret once told him that Countdown was one of the Queen’s favourite programmes.

Despite getting on well with Mr Whiteley’s successors Des Lynam and Des O’Connor, Miss Vorderman considered quitting when Mr Whiteley died.

But she agreed to carry on, turning down the offer of becoming the main host.

Since Mr Whiteley’s death, Countdown’s viewing figures have plunged. Currently, it averages 1.7million viewers an episode – in its heyday three million tuned in.

Miss Vorderman said last night: ‘I was in shock and absolutely distraught at their ultimatum. I had no alternative but to go.

‘Countdown has been a huge part of my life. I am allowing my manager to release this statement so that the Countdown viewers and all the team know the truth.’

She went on: ‘I am devastated that my joyous time with one of the best programmes on TV has ended in this way. I have been on Countdown since I was 21. I’ve been through two pregnancies on the show and the Countdown team are like a family to me.

‘I hadn’t demanded more money and I hadn’t insisted on the number one job. That’s all lies.

‘To be honest, I loved the show so much I was thinking of taking a cut. In fact, in the right circumstances, I’d have done it for free – but they obviously wanted me out.

'I was pushed into leaving something I love. I was forced out, that's the truth.

'I want the viewers to know I would never walk away from a programme I care so much about. I'm only talking now because I was them to know the truth.

‘In the Nineties I was offered big contracts to leave but I always made sure if I worked for other companies I was still able to present Countdown.

'I've been all over the place for the past week. All I have ever done with purity in my heart has been to work hard for countdown.

'It's not just like a TV programme to me, that's what's so hard.'

Recalling the memories of her days working with Whiteley, Miss Vorderman said: "I loved Richard and he loved me. He could make me laugh and we had the most wonderful time together.

"We'd do five 45-minute shows a day and I'd cry with laughter through every one.

"After Richard died they asked me to take over but I just said I couldn't sit in his chair. It was his job. They told me they might have to drop the programme, but I said I'll continue and we'll make it work."

Nobody from ITV Productions was available for comment.

Channel 4 said: ‘We never discuss presenters’ salaries.’

Carol Vorderman

Golden years: Carol Vorderman with co-presenter Richard Whiteley who died in 2005

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