Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Disney boss Bob Iger had to convince George Stephanopoulos, 60, not to quit ABC in a tantrum when younger rival David Muir, 47, was promoted and gave him his own production company in exchange for dropping Chief Anchor title

 Disney boss Bob Iger flew from California to New York earlier this year to broker a deal with George Stephanopoulos after he threatened to leave ABC in a tantrum because younger rival David Muir had been promoted.  

Stephanopoulos was irate when Muir was given the responsibility of leading the network's special coverage of breaking news stories and special events - a role Stephanopoulos has held since 2014.  

Stephanopoulos, 60, hosts Good Morning America and served as White House Communications Director in the early 1990s for Bill Clinton. He joined ABC in 1997 and was given the Chief Anchor role in 2014. The network had never had one before. 

Earlier this year, when he found out that the Chief Anchor responsibilities were being handed over to Muir, 47, even though the title wasn't, he threatened to walk. 

Muir had been given the extra duties two years ago but was told he'd have to wait until after 2020, when Stephanopoulos' commitments were winding down.  

'The network reached out to David two years ago asking for a long term commitment and for his patience. Which is exactly what he's done,' a network source told DailyMail.com on Tuesday.

When Stephanopoulos discovered the deal earlier this year, he was enraged and threatened to leave. Iger flew from California to New York to broker peace and convince him to stay with a lucrative production deal which includes producing content for Disney-owned Hulu and National Geographic, as well as being given his own production company to work on projects with his wife Ali Wentworth. 

Muir will keep the responsibility of leading special coverage and will stay on at World News Tonight but neither will have the Chief Anchor title. 

Senior sources at ABC tell DailyMail.com the row is both 'outrageous and pathetic' given Muir earns at least $5million-a-year and Stephanopoulos earns between $15million and $17million-a-year.  

George Stephanopoulos
David Muir

According to anonymous industry sources cited by CNN, George Stephanopoulos (L) was irate when David Muir (R) was given the responsibility of leading the network's special coverage of breaking news stories and special events - a role he has held since 2014.

‘It truly is outrageous that these two privileged men, earning millions upon millions of dollars a year with apartments in Manhattan and homes in the Hamptons are whining over who gets the title of Chief Anchor.

‘George running to Bob (Iger) to complain is truly pathetic. There are over 500,000 Americans dead from Covid, millions of Americans out of work and this is what George has to complain about. 

'He is truly out of touch with reality,' one said. 

They also pointed to an Instagram post from George's wife on his birthday where she stoked the embers of the fight, saying: 'Happy Birthday to our chief anchor on and off screen! We love you!' 

'Both George and David need to realize how lucky and privileged they both are. For our employees who earn $30,000 a year, this fight is ridiculous,' the source added. 

Disney boss Bob Iger had to fly across the country to convince Stephanopoulos to stay, according to the sources

Disney boss Bob Iger had to fly across the country to convince Stephanopoulos to stay, according to the sources

A different source who was close to the negotiations disputed that Muir ever vied for the role, saying: 'Muir was not interested in that title. In fact, it's a title that has alienated multiple anchors ever since it was created.' 

Staffers also say it's ironic that Iger rushed to intervene when at the start of the year, Stephanopoulos embarrassed the network by being seen in the Hamptons without a mask covering his face after testing positive for COVID-19. 

'How nice that Disney executives flew to NYC to sort this out but where were they when George was causing the company embarrassment in the early part of the pandemic,' the source said. 

Another said there is no grievance on Muir's side, and that the complaining came only from Stephanopoulous.   

The rivalry between the two men dates back to 2014 when Muir replaced Diane Sawyer on what was then known as ABC World News. It is now called World News Tonight. 

At the time, the World News anchor role was the most coveted in the organization and whoever filled it was considered top dog. 


Stephanopoulos was already hosting GMA and was leading it to enormous commercial success but wanted the World News Tonight role. He stayed on the morning schedule. 

Muir, then 40, was given the World News anchor job. He was considerably less experienced than Stephanopoulos at the time, so the Chief Anchor role went to the latter, as did the higher salary. 

In a Mediaite report from 2014, Muir's salary was put at $5million but it is likely to have gone up considerably since then, especially given the show's stellar ratings - it was the most watched show on TV last year for six months and was the most-watched nightly news show of the entire year.

On his birthday two weeks ago, George's wife Ali Wentworth alluded to the spat on Instagram. She called him 'chief anchor on and off screen'

On his birthday two weeks ago, George's wife Ali Wentworth alluded to the spat on Instagram. She called him 'chief anchor on and off screen'

Stephanopoulos was already a star in the worlds of politics and media when he joined ABC in 1997 after serving as White House Director of Communications for Bill Clinton. He is shown being interviewed by Jay Leno that year

Stephanopoulos was already a star in the worlds of politics and media when he joined ABC in 1997 after serving as White House Director of Communications for Bill Clinton. He is shown being interviewed by Jay Leno that year 

One of Stephanopoulos' earliest jobs with the network was on This Week. He is shown with Bill Kristol, Clarence Page, George Will, Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts that year

One of Stephanopoulos' earliest jobs with the network was on This Week. He is shown with Bill Kristol, Clarence Page, George Will, Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts that year 

Stephanopoulos re-signed with the network in 2019 on a four-year deal that gives him an annual salary of between $15million and $17million. 

Now, sources say it is Muir's time to step up. 

'David hated being sidelined until 6:30,' one said. Another said: 'ABC asked him to step up.'

Two years ago, Muir quietly re-signed a contract and agreed to wait his turn to fill the bigger role. 

Stephanopoulos had also agreed to stay on and had agreed to give up Chief Anchor role in some vague capacity but only under the condition that it did not go to anyone else. 

Muir has quietly and gradually become the face of ABC's News Division over the last few years and was waiting in the wings for Stephanopoulos' commitments to wind down, according to the sources. He is shown interviewing Former President Donald Trump last year

Muir has quietly and gradually become the face of ABC's News Division over the last few years and was waiting in the wings for Stephanopoulos' commitments to wind down, according to the sources. He is shown interviewing Former President Donald Trump last year

When he found out that Muir was going to be given the responsibilities of it even without the title, he is said to have felt betrayed. 

ABC News President James Goldston stepped down earlier this year and his deputy, Barbara Fedida, left the network last year amid a  scandal over racially insensitive comments she allegedly made. 

It left Iger and Peter Rice, Disney's chairman of general entertainment content, to handle the fallout between Stephanopoulos and Muir this year. 

ABC representatives declined to comment on Tuesday morning.  

Muir with Robin Roberts and Stephanopoulos in 2014. He has been with ABC since 2003

Muir with Robin Roberts and Stephanopoulos in 2014. He has been with ABC since 2003 

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