Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield will both host This Morning tomorrow after he called in lawyers over their falling-out.
The decision – confirmed today by ITV – came after more than 48 hours of crisis talks between the network and the embattled pair over whether one of them, both or neither would be on air tomorrow.
Sources at the broadcaster described the situation as a ‘quandary’ for its bosses because both of the former friends were determined to get their own way.
Schofield, 61, has consulted lawyers over the situation, which has been spiralling out of control for months.
The Daily Mail can reveal that he has also hired Gordon Smart, a former Sun showbiz columnist and occasional Good Morning Britain host, to manage the crisis and ensure favourable press coverage.
Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield (pictured during their last show together on Thursday) will both host This Morning tomorrow after he called in lawyers over their falling-out
It follows crisis talks between ITV and the embattled pair over whether one of them, both or neither would be on air tomorrow. Pictured: Holly in Hampshire on Saturday
The feud began in September when the pair (pictured in August 22) were criticised after failing to queue for the Queen’s Lying in State
It is a clear sign, say sources, that he is ‘taking this very seriously’ and is ‘keen to come out of the situation quickly’.
Schofield has previously used ex-News of the World bosses Phil Hall and Phil Taylor to deal with his crises.
Other ITV stars are said to be ‘fascinated’ by the situation, with one telling the Mail: ‘This has been going on for some time. Everyone has been talking and now we are all rubbing our hands waiting to see what happens next.’
The feud began in September when the pair were criticised after failing to queue for the Queen’s Lying in State.
Things have become so bad that it is said they no longer speak when the cameras stop rolling. Ms Willoughby, 42, has now cut all ties with Schofield other than her This Morning commitments.
It is understood that producers had several options for how to tackle tomorrow’s show. At the centre of the decision was editor Martin Frizell, who backs Ms Willoughby.
It will be the first time the pair will appear together since Schofield released a statement about their friendship last Thursday without consulting her first. While on air that morning they failed to convince viewers they were still friends, with Ms Willoughby apparently unable to look her co-star in the eye.
Insiders predict a battle between ITV and Schofield. He has been a powerful figure there for more than 20 years, but his influence is waning. Bosses want to keep Ms Willoughby happy, and staff on This Morning expect the tense atmosphere in the studio to become more difficult.
While the co-hosts’ return is expected to boost ratings, executives fear that reviving their partnership will make viewers suspicious of any forced bonhomie. One insider said: ‘This will seriously undermine the show and its reputation. How can they pretend to joke together?
Schofield disappeared off TV during his brother Timothy’s (pictured together in 2015) trial over sexually abusing a teenage boy
It will be the first time the pair will appear together since Schofield released a statement about their friendship last Thursday without consulting her first
Schofield (pictured with Willoughby in 2019) has previously used ex-News of the World bosses Phil Hall and Phil Taylor to deal with his crises
‘Their friendship used to be genuine, but it isn’t any more, so surely they will be making fools of their audience. But neither will back down. How can you just tell one of them they are to stay at home?
‘The headlines that will come from them being on together could really damage the show and its brand.’
Schofield disappeared from the airwaves for more than a fortnight last month while his brother Timothy, 54, was tried at Exeter Crown Court of sexually abusing a teenage boy. After he was convicted, the TV star said: ‘I no longer have a brother.’
Meanwhile, it has emerged that a runner on This Morning who struck up a friendship with Schofield quit suddenly. The man, in his 20s, moved to ITV’s Loose Women before leaving the network amid claims of a rift.
ITV and Schofield insist the Loose Women job was a promotion. But a source said: ‘He and Phil were close, then he just went off to Loose Women, which is a rival show. It was odd. Some of the network’s biggest names expressed surprise. He was popular. It was mysterious.’