NEW YORK — In a bombshell move, Megyn Kelly will leave Fox News later this year and join NBC News.
Kelly, Fox’s prime time news anchor, who achieved national fame for her coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign, will join NBC News as host of a daytime news program and a Sunday night news show, NBC announced Tuesday.
Kelly’s last day on Fox will be Friday, Jan. 7, her spokeswoman Leslee Dart told CNNMoney.
The move will be perceived in the industry as a coup for NBC and a blow to Fox News. In the last 18 months, Kelly has become one of the biggest stars on television, and her 9 p.m. show was the second-most watched news program on cable.
Her contract was up in July. Now her departure will leave a hole in the middle of Fox’s primetime schedule.
Fox made no immediate announcement about a replacement for her.
Kelly’s future had been the topic of constant speculation in the television news industry for the past year. Kelly and her representatives also held talks with CNN and ABC, among other potential outlets, before deciding on NBC.
Sources with knowledge of the matter said that Fox News had offered Kelly an annual salary of more than $20 million to stay at the network, matching the salary of her colleague and rival, Bill O’Reilly.
Kelly weighed her options and talked with her family throughout the month of December, according to one of the people she deliberated with. She informed 21st Century Fox executive co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch of her decision on Tuesday morning. “They had a lovely conversation,” the source said.
During the months of negotiations, television industry executives said other networks were highly unlikely to match Fox’s financial offer to Kelly.
But “money wasn’t the driving factor” in Kelly’s decision, Dart said.
Dart declined to comment on any of the specific deal terms.
Kelly told friends that one of her top priorities was a family-friendly work schedule. Kelly has three young children and wasn’t getting home on weekdays until well after their bedtime.
A daytime program on NBC will give Kelly a lot more flexibility.
“Megyn is an exceptional journalist and news anchor, who has had an extraordinary career,” NBCUniversal News Group chairman Andy Lack said in an email to staff. “She’s demonstrated tremendous skill and poise, and we’re lucky to have her.”
In a Facebook post, Kelly wrote that she was leaving Fox News “incredibly enriched” by her twelve years at the network.
“While I will greatly miss my colleagues at Fox, I am delighted to be joining the NBC News family and taking on a new challenge,” she wrote. “I remain deeply grateful to Fox News, to Rupert, Lachlan and James Murdoch, and especially to all of the FNC viewers, who have taught me so much about what really matters. More to come soon.”
In a statement of his own, Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox, said, “We thank Megyn Kelly for her 12 years of contributions to Fox News. We hope she enjoys tremendous success in her career and wish her and her family all the best.”
Lack’s internal memo said Kelly would start hosting “later this year.” He did not list a specific start date. In addition to her own programs, Kelly will contribute to NBC’s breaking news coverage as well as the network’s political and special events coverage.
It is not yet clear if Kelly’s Sunday night program will air during the NFL football season, when NBC broadcasts “Sunday Night Football.” When asked, an NBC News source said “all timing is TBD.”
The announcement, initially reported by The New York Times and confirmed by NBC minutes later, appeared to catch Fox News somewhat off guard.
Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, who oversee Fox News and the rest of 21st Century Fox, had worked hard to convince Kelly to stay within the company, offering her several different options. But Rupert Murdoch was also quoted last fall saying that plenty of other Fox hosts would be eager to take over Kelly’s 9 p.m. time slot.
Kelly was in an awkward work setting at Fox over the last year. O’Reilly, the 8 p.m. host, and Sean Hannity, the 10 p.m. host, both publicly clashed with her at various moments in 2016, furthering the speculation that she might not want to remain at Fox.
Kelly also played a key role in the ouster of Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes, who left the network amid multiple sexual harassment allegations. Kelly herself accused Ailes of sexually harassing her and making inappropriate comments in private meetings.