Pop Culture

Jay Leno is out in ’09 and Conan O’Brien is in

If “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno is having second thoughts about surrendering his job as planned, NBC doesn’t share them — at least not publicly.

“Conan O’Brien will take over ‘The Tonight Show’ in 2009,” NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker said Monday in New York at an event arranged by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

(MSNBC is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Zucker said he’d like Leno to remain with the company and that “we are in those conversations now.”

“I’m hopeful that Jay will be with us,” the executive told the question-and-answer session.

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A deal for Leno’s exit was finalized three years ago as part of NBC Universal’s effort to keep “Late Night” host O’Brien from bolting to a competing network. Leno marked his 15th year as host of “Tonight” last May.

Leno has said he’s comfortable with his planned departure but, according to a report earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times, the comedian has grown reluctant to retire as host of the fabled, top-rated late-night program.

Leno declined comment on the Times report when it was published. He had no comment Monday on Zucker’s remarks, an NBC spokeswoman said.

NBC is owned by General Electric Co.

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