Matt LeBlanc secures $3.5m Top Gear deal
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LeBlanc to become sole Top Gear presenter
Matt LeBlanc has secured a $3.6m contract to front Top Gear alone following Chris Evans's high-profile departure from the show.
The presenter, who fronted the previous series alongside Evans, has apparently signed the two-series deal after months of negotiations with the broadcaster.
He will now film the motoring show around the schedule for his new sitcom - called Man With a Plan - which is in Los Angeles.
Matt LeBlanc with former Top Gear co-presnter Chris Evans
The former Friends star, 49, received around $891,000 for his first Top Gear series, but was said to have been in talks with the BBC since his contract expired in June.
According to The Sun newspaper, the BBC agreed to pay LeBlanc four times more after losing the Great British Bake Off to Channel 4.
A source said losing LeBlanc because of a few 'diary arrangements' would have thrown Top Gear into 'crisis' - something the BBC will be keen to avoid after the furore surrounding the popular baking show.
'In the end, Matt's great with the fans and gives the show stability as it's due to start filming within days,' they said.
At the time, the BBC confirmed that the 50-year-old will not be replaced - paving the way for LeBlanc to front the programme alone.
The spokesman said there would be 'no changes to the current line up' and that the show would continue as an 'ensemble piece in terms of presenters.'
But the American actor was only signed up to present one series of the show and there were said to be negotiations surrounding his pay and his new sitcom.
LeBlanc was paid $891,000 for the first series but was said to be demanding more money for double the work.
During negotiations, it was reported that Paul Hollywood had been offered a role on the show, in a desperate bid by the BBC to keep the Bake Off star inside the corporation.
He has previously fronted a one-off BBC show about Aston Martins, and said earlier this year that he would be doing ‘more car programmes’ in future.
But the BBC has now confirmed that LeBlanc will take on the lead role himself, helped by racing driver Sabine Schmitz, F1 star Eddie Jordan, YouTube star Chris Harris, motoring journalist Rory Reid and The Stig.
Patrick Holland, channel editor at BBC Two, said: 'I am thrilled that Matt LeBlanc is returning to Top Gear. He's a huge talent whose love of cars is infectious. I can't wait for the series to return to BBC Two next year.'
Mark Linsey, director at BBC Studios, added: 'Matt was hugely popular with Top Gear viewers last series with his humour, warmth and obvious passion for cars and for the show, so I couldn’t be more delighted that he’s agreed to come back and do more for us.'
Before the new version of the programme aired it was dogged by controversy, and rumours that Evans and Le Blanc did not get along.
The pair reportedly fell out over the actor's 'disrespectful' doughnut stunt at the Cenotaph, with Evans seeking to downplay his role in the filming.
The sequences saw LeBlanc and a stunt driver fill Whitehall with smoke and burning rubber by wheel-spinning in the shadow of Britain's main war memorials.
The controversy continued when the series aired as the show struggled to make an impact in the overnights - the figures for the previous day's viewing.
It launched over a Bank Holiday weekend with 4.4million viewers on May 29, but plummeted to 2.8 million in the second outing.
It averaged 2.4million viewers for the third and 2.3million for its fourth installment.
The final episode, which featured guests Jennifer Saunders and Paul Hollywood, rose for the first time since the new series started.
It drew an average of 2.7million people, with a peak of three million viewers tuning in at one point. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May at the helm bowed out of Top Gear with 5.8million viewers.
LeBlanc's contract comes weeks after the furore surrounding Channel 4's acquisition of Bake Off.
The BBC is reportedly threatening to rush out a rival to the show starring Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, who have said they won’t follow Paul Hollywood when the show moves to Channel 4.
It has since emerged that MPs are to probe Channel 4’s acquisition of the show after concerns that the broadcaster failed in its requirement to commission innovative new programming.
Channel 4 is state-owned but is funded by advertising and has a strict remit which demands that it must demonstrate ‘innovation, experiment and creativity’, as well as a ‘distinctive character’.