Jeremy Clarkson’s Top Gear co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond are reportedly being offered a combined pay package of $9 million to continue to host the show.
Two months after their Top Gear contracts expired, and with their future at the British broadcaster looking uncertain, May, 52, and Hammond, 45, could now find themselves among the BBC’s highest paid stars if they decide to sign on for two or three more series.
The deal would put the co-presenters on a similar salary to Clarkson (BBC’s highest-paid presenter) before the “fracas” that led to his departure at the end of March.
The massive offerings are thought to be part of a desperate bid by corporation bosses to rescue the motoring show, which is worth an estimated $98 million per year to its commercial arm BBC Worldwide.
While representatives of both TV personalities declined to comment on the lucrative contracts, it is thought Top Gear will return in the same sort of format as Have I Got News For You, with a guest host joining May and Hammond each week.
A BBC source told The Independent, “Despite their pronouncements of loyalty to Clarkson, Hammond and May have taken the trouble not to resign in protest at his sacking … [and] have each been offered £1 million a year to keep the Top Gear flame of inspired puerility alive.”
When Clarkson was sacked back in March, Hammond and May indicated that they would not front the show without their co-presenter.
“Gutted at such a sad end to an era,” Hammond said on Twitter. “We’re all three of us idiots in our different ways but it’s been an incredible ride together.”
May told Sky News television: “It’s a tragedy, I’m sorry that what ought to have been a small incident sorted out easily turned into something big.”
Asked if he and Hammond would continue without Clarkson, he said: “We’re very much the three of us a package … that will require a lot of careful thought.
“I’m sure Top Gear will continue in some way — it existed before us, it’s been reformatted,” he added.
May’s Twitter profile was even updated to say: “Former TV presenter”.
Clarkson was already on his last warning from the BBC, for whom he has worked since 1988,
when he was dropped for punching his producer, Oisin Tymon, in a row over a steak.