"From the day I first saw Matt Lauer substitute for Bryant Gumbel, I knew he had the skills and knowledge to one day ascend to the anchor chair," Jeff Zucker, executive producer of "Today," said in making the announcement.
After stops in Philadelphia and Boston, the 38-year-old Lauer joined "Today" three years ago as its news anchor. He has regularly substituted for Gumbel, and yesterday's announcement of his promotion confirmed what everyone expected.
"The most important part of "Today" is the family [of talent] and its content, and Matt has been a big part of that family the last few years," Andrew Lack, president of NBC News, said during a teleconference. The "Today" show is about to begin its 45th year on television.
But Lack said Lauer's co- anchor status would not have happened without Couric's blessing.
"I went to Katie and asked her about it first," Lack said. "It was Katie's call."
Lauer characterized his relationship with Couric as "a sister and brother relationship where we kid each other -- but with respect."
Zucker said Gumbel's last day on "Today" will be Jan. 3, and the entire two hours of that show will be a tribute to Gumbel, who has co-anchored for 14 years, longer than anyone in network morning television.
Gumbel has not announced his plans. Lack said NBC News has been trying to put together a package to keep him, while CBS News has acknowledged that it is trying to lure him away.
Pub Date: 12/24/96