Kathie Lee Gifford wanted to leave the "Today" program a year ago, Page Six has learned.
Sources tell us that Gifford, who announced on Tuesday he will leave the NBC program after 11 years, went to executives in the fall of 2017 and said she was ready to resign.
But network experts tell us that the NBC News news channel begged him to stay another year because the alignment of the important morning program was in turmoil and they wanted to maintain as much continuity as possible.
Executives even said goodbye to Gifford taking a lot of time to make movies and record music, so she would stay.
When Gifford initially raised his resignation with his bosses, Matt Lauer had just been expelled from the "Today" show amid accusations of sexual misconduct. Megyn Kelly's hesitation was sending shockwaves through the franchise, and at the same time, fans still felt the absence of favorite Tamron Hall.
So we are told that Gifford was offered a good deal to stay for 11 years as co-host of the beloved and crushing fourth hour of "Today" with Hoda Kotb.
On Tuesday, Gifford announced on the air that he was going to concentrate on his film career.
Meanwhile, the sources tell Page Six that Jenna Bush Hager is the favorite to take over Gifford.
We are told that Hager has become popular with viewers and the bosses of NBC News, and he is expected to assume the role of Gifford when he leaves on his 11th anniversary in April 2019.
After announcing his departure from the show on Tuesday morning, Gifford said: "I know someone wonderful will be sitting in this seat later." And, "I have my idea of who could be absolutely wonderful."
Hager has been a frequent presence on the show and joined Kotb during the summer when Gifford was in Scotland filming a movie he also wrote.