By SHEILA MARIKAR
Harpo President Announces Oprah Winfrey's Plans to Step Down From Iconic Show
After more than 20 years at the top of the daytime talk show game, Oprah Winfrey's calling it quits.
According to insiders, Winfrey informed her staff of her decision late this afternoon in a company meeting, described as "emotional, supportive and respectful."
This afternoon, Tim Bennett, president of Winfrey's Harpo production house, announced that the media mogul will step off the "Oprah" set in September 2011. He said Winfrey will confirm the news on Friday's edition of her show.
"The Oprah Winfrey Show" will not move on to the cable Oprah Winfrey Network or OWN.
Since "Oprah's" 1986 inception, Winfrey's grown to be far more than a shoulder to cry on for scandal-scarred stars. Her empire -- which includes films, books, magazines and Web sites, in addition to her TV show -- influences people the world over, and her wealth -- at one point, she was the world's only African-American billionaire, according to Forbes magazine -- grants her access to people, places and things few others can conceive.
What's next for Winfrey? Perhaps she'll drop a hint on her show Friday.
Below, read the full text of Bennett's statement to stations across the country that carry Winfrey's show.
Over the past several weeks, my team and I have had conversations with many of you to help address your questions about the future of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Of course, the one question we couldn't answer was the one that only Oprah could. And tomorrow, she will do just that.
But before she speaks to her loyal viewers, we wanted to share her decision first with you -- our valued partners for more than two decades.
Tomorrow, Oprah will announce live on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that she has decided to end what is arguably one of the most popular, influential and enduring programs in television history. The sun will set on the "Oprah" show as its 25th season draws to a close on September 9, 2011.
We welcome you to share this news this evening with your colleagues and viewers. As we all know, Oprah's personal comments about this on tomorrow's live show will mark an historic television moment that we will all be talking about for years to come.
We want to thank you for the partnership and friendship we have shared over the years. Your invaluable support has helped us to create the phenomenon of the "Oprah Show" that we've all been so proud to be a part of for the last 24 years. My staff and I will be calling all of you directly tonight and tomorrow. We look forward to speaking with you.
And, if you think the last quarter century has been something, then "don't touch that dial" as together we plan to make history in the next 20 months ... and beyond.
President, Harpo, Inc.
Oprah's production company Harpo says that while it has projects in development, they are not announcing anything at this time.