Jeremy Clarkson is to go ahead with a live tour alongside his Top Gear co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May despite his sacking by the BBC.
The Top Gear Live tour will be stripped of all BBC and Top Gear branding and will instead be called Clarkson, Hammond and May Live.But the BBC will still effectively be paying Clarkson, as his contract for the shows is with a company which is 50 per cent owned by BBC Worldwide, the Corporation’s commercial arm.
It is likely to lead to criticism that money has come before principles, as cancelling the tour would have been hugely costly.
BBC Worldwide said it had reached the compromise for the sake of the 100,000 fans who had bought tickets.
The first of the shows will be in Belfast on May 22.Clarkson was sacked by the BBC last week after he punched Oisin Tymon, a Top Gear producer, in an argument over catering arrangements at a hotel on location filming.
He will make his comeback in Belfast on May 22 at the first of the live events, followed by appearances in Norway, South Africa, Australia and London over the coming months.
A BBC Worldwide spokesman said: “So as not to disappoint the thousands of people around the world who have already purchased tickets, BBC Worldwide has agreed with our joint venture partner Brand Events that the remainder of the tour can continue.
“These events will not, however,feature any BBC Top Gear branding or content. We believe this is a sensible approach in the circumstances.”
The Top Gear Live events are being organised by Sub Zero, a joint venture that is half owned by BBC Worldwide and half by its commercial partner Brand Events. Clarkson’s contract is with Sub Zero.
A source close to BBC Worldwide said: “The BBC is not paying Jeremy Clarkson for these shows. Any payment will be made from the joint venture, which BBC Worldwide may or may not receive a dividend from, depending on whether the tour makes a profit. No licence fee income is being used here.
”Most of the dates have had to be rescheduled and tour organisers believe it may not make a profit by the time those costs have been taken into account.
The move is likely to cause rumours that the three presenters, all of whom are now out of contract with the BBC, intend to continue their careers together, but sources close to the tour say it is just a matter of fulfilling commitments.
This week Andy Wilman, the Top Gear producer who was regarded as central to the show’s success, had to deny reports that he had quit after an email he sent to staff that seemed to suggest he was resigning was leaked online.