NBC Paying Leno Millions to Walk Out Early

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Jay Leno is getting pushed out by NBC, but at least he'll have a golden parachute to help the landing.

NBC will cough up about $15 million for Jay Leno as a sweetener to step down from “The Tonight Show” months before his contract with the network expires, industry sources say.

The payoff, about a year’s salary for the late-night comic, is part of his deal with the peacock network to leave the show before his contract expires next September to make way for Jimmy Fallon as the new “Tonight” host.

While the payout sounds steep, it’s peanuts for Leno who rakes in far more money performing standup comedy in Las Vegas.

“Jay has been banking his NBC money for years,” a knowledgable insider said. “He lives off of his Vegas (money).”

Leno, 62, agreed Wednesday to step down from “Tonight” next year, paving the way for a smooth succession with Fallon, 38, who is taking over the program in February.

Leno’s current deal with NBC concludes in September 2014, but the plan now is to use the network’s Winter Olympics coverage next February as a springboard to launch Fallon’s tenure as the host of the “Tonight” show.

NBC officials declined to comment on contractual issues, but a source close to Leno disputed the payday, noting that “Jay will be paid through September 2014.”

Leno, for his part, said that he is leaving peacefully because he was consulted about his departure — something that didn’t happen four years ago when he was pushed out to make way for Conan O’Brien.

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