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Kathie Lee Gifford, who has co-anchored TODAY’s fourth hour with Hoda Kotb for the past decade, is retiring from the program, she announced Tuesday.
"It's an exciting time for me and I'm thrilled about all the projects that are coming up, but it's also hard,” she said, breaking the “bittersweet” news. "I've been in this business for 120 years and never worked with a more beautiful group of people who just give, give, give every day."
Kathie Lee, 65, said she plans to stay through the program through her next anniversary, April 7, 2019. She credited her success on the show to the friendship she developed with her partner, Hoda Kotb.
"I thought I would stay one year. Something happened along the way — fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian goddess," she said, referring to Hoda. “We’re going to be friends for the rest of our lives. I’m grateful to God for you.”
Kathie Lee compared her friendship with Hoda to the one she developed with her other longtime TV co-star, Regis Philbin, after she left the program they once hosted together in 2000 after a dozen years.
“When I left Regis it was hard, but I’m closer to him now than we were after 15 years together,” she said. “You don’t share that kind of life together and not be changed forever by it."
The announcement had both women choking back tears.
"The minute you stepped into my life, everything changed,” Hoda recalled. “I remember thinking, how does one person step into your life and change it like that? And you did that for me.”
The duo celebrated their 10-year-anniversary earlier this year with tributes from friends and celebrities they've had fun with over the years.
NBC News chief Noah Oppenheim sent an email announcing the news just minutes before Kathie Lee and Hoda went on air.
"As we all know, Kathie Lee’s plate has been overflowing lately with film, music and book projects, and after giving us eleven extraordinary years, she’s decided to focus her attention full-time on those other creative endeavors," he said in his memo.
"When we first launched this incredible hour, no one could have predicted the lightning (or rather, wine) in a bottle that is Hoda & Kathie Lee," he continued.
"Whether in studio or on one of their many road trips, they have delighted our audience with their distinct brand of fun, friendship and adventure. During that time, Kathie Lee has cemented her status as one of the most enduring and endearing talents in morning television. In short — she is a legend."