Lisa Wilkinson defects from Channel 9’s Today show, joins 10

Lisa Wilkinson. Photo: AAP
Lisa Wilkinson. Photo: AAP

HAS Channel 9 made a big mistake in letting one half of the Today show’s hosting duo walk out the door?

Lisa Wilkinson had co-hosted Today with Karl Stefanovic since 2008, but has quit amid reports she was unhappy with the pay discrepancy between the pair.

Wilkinson’s co-hosts expressed shock at her sudden departure, but pledged to cheer her on in her new role at rival network Ten.

The 57-year-old stunned the media world on Monday night with news she was leaving Today after a decade, following a breakdown in pay negotiations after Nine reportedly wouldn’t match her salary to co-host Karl Stefanovic’s.

Stefanovic was first among the breakfast show’s hosts to pay tribute to Wilkinson on Tuesday, saying she’d handled a decade’s worth of brutal 3.30am starts with grace, intelligence and “a wicked sense of humour”.

“It is safe to say we are all a little shocked and it will take time to sink in. So for now, this: Thank you,” he said.

“Mostly you go with my love, lots of love, all my love. We will see you soon, maybe after midday. Enjoy the sleep.

“We look forward to a couple of champagnes too. At 9:05, maybe.”

Minutes after Wilkinson announced her departure from Today on Twitter on Monday night, Ten confirmed she was joining its current affairs programs The Project in a senior hosting role.

“I have some news. I’m sad to say that today was my last day on @the today show,” Wilkinson tweeted, before later thanking “everyone for all your lovely messages”.

Wilkinson hasn’t revealed exactly why she quit but reports suggest her decision was driven by the discrepancy between her $1.1 million pay packet compared to the $2 million Stefanovic takes home for his combined roles on Today, 60 Minutes and Nine’s news.

Nine reportedly offered Wilkinson $1.8 million to stay, but she walked away.

Stefanovic was joined by Today’s news presenter Sylvia Jeffreys, long-time music guru Richard Wilkins, sports presenter Tim Gilbert and Wilkinson’s last-minute fill-in Deb Knight in reminiscing about their former colleague’s skills in everything from interviewing to dancing.

“It is a start of a brilliant and exciting new chapter and I will be cheering her on as I always do as she takes on this next challenge,” an emotional Jeffreys said.

“Seeing is believing for young girls and for young women and what they see in Lisa is a strong, influential, fun and compassionate woman at the very, very top of her game and that is a very powerful thing.”

Wilkins remembered the “many laughs, hundreds of flights and thousands of hours on air” he shared with Wilkinson before wishing her well.

Meanwhile, Wilkinson appeared to be enjoying the luxury of a sleep-in and accepting a dinner invitation from Melissa Doyle, a former co-host at Today’s morning show rival Sunrise.

“That’s a date @melissadoyle!”, Wilkinson tweeted.

Nine has expressed disappointment Wilkinson had not signed on for a further period and said it would take the Today show “in another direction”.

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