Gumbel bidding adieu to 'Early Show,' CBS

— Bryant Gumbel said Thursday he was quitting as host of CBS' morning news program, "The Early Show," and will be leaving CBS.

The longtime host of NBC's "Today" show was lured back to morning television in November 1999, and CBS spent $30 million to build a new streetside studio in Manhattan to launch "The Early Show."

"After more than 17 years of hosting a morning news program, I feel it's time for me to move on and do something else with my life," Gumbel said in a statement Thursday.

His contract with CBS expires in May. The network did not immediately know when he would exit "The Early Show."

The show never climbed from third place in the competitive morning news race against first-place "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America." Yet after many years of floundering, "The Early Show" has become profitable for CBS and will continue after Gumbel's departure.

"Simply put, Bryant has put us on the map in the morning," CBS News President Andrew Heyward said. "His professionalism, his extraordinary versatility and his enormous skills as a live interviewer have been invaluable to the development of 'The Early Show."'

CBS signed Gumbel to a five-year, $5 million annual contract in 1997 � a relative bargain in inflationary times in the TV business. Gumbel's former partner, "Today's" Katie Couric, makes three times as much.

Gumbel was host of a newsmagazine, "Public Eye," that was canceled for poor ratings before he started again with "The Early Show."

The 53-year-old recently went through a messy divorce and is engaged to Hilary Quinlan, a former research analyst at Goldman Sachs.

"As I prepare to begin a new chapter in my personal life, it makes sense to me to turn the page on my professional life as well," he said.

He didn't detail his other plans.

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