Chris Harrison is officially exiting “The Bachelor” franchise after nearly 20 years — and is reportedly seeking a golden parachute that may top eight figures.
The longtime host is out after he defended the behavior of contestant Rachael Kirkconnell — which was widely condemned as racially insensitive — in an interview with former Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsay, who became the first Black lead for the franchise in 2017.
Rumors circulated that Harrison was on the outs after it was revealed that David Spade will be hosting this summer’s “Bachelor in Paradise” — the franchise’s popular spinoff series. Page Six reported that Harrison had been making $5 million per season before his impromptu hiatus in February — and that he he was seeking a whopping $25 million payout to exit the show.
The outlet added that the host “threatened to spill all the franchise’s dirty secrets if he didn’t get it,” although the reported settlement is believed to be lower than $25 million.
ABC did not respond to Yahoo Finance’s request for comment.
Bryan Sullivan, an attorney at the law firm of Early Sullivan, told Yahoo Finance that the potential for a high payout most likely centers around Harrison’s contract, and how many years were still left on the deal. In addition, there’s the issue of a morality clause — a legal component that’s often vague in nature.
“It’s probably questionable if [his comments] were enough to actually trigger the right to terminate in a way that was clear and obvious,” Sullivan said. He explained that studios are always more inclined to settle in cases like these, rather than go to court.
“It’s all kind of done as a cost benefit analysis,” he explained — adding that high attorney fees, gathering witnesses, and the litigation process at large is often not worth the time, effort or money.
An attempt to litigate “opens a can of worms that, once it’s open, you can’t close it and who knows what would be revealed during that time,” Sullivan said. On top of all the risks, the studio would still “have a decent chance of losing,” cautioning, “No one ever has a 100% chance of winning.”
On Tuesday, Harrison posted a short statement on Instagram, writing in part, “I’m so grateful to Bachelor Nation for all of the memories we’ve made together.”
Sullivan said it is unlikely that Harrison will go on to reveal any behind-the-scenes secrets at this point, noting settlements like these typically include a confidentiality provision — which “is not an exception, but usually the rule.”
Celebrities securing fat paydays after controversial firings is not a new concept. Megyn Kelly, who was jettisoned by NBC in 2018 after delivering on-air comments defending blackface, still received the full $69 million her initial three-year contract stipulated. That shut down the possibility of a drawn-out legal battle.
“There will always be a compulsion by the studio to pay something to have it go it away,” LA-based litigation attorney Sean Andrade previously told Yahoo Finance.
On Monday, “The Bachelorette” returned to ABC on Monday for the first time without Harrison. The season 17 premiere topped Monday’s ratings, but was still the lowest premiere in the series’ history — garnering just 3.59 million viewers and a 0.9 rating in the 18-49 demographic, according to early Nielsen Live+Same Day numbers.
For comparison, the last “Bachelorette” premiere, which made its debut in October 2020, saw 4.76 million viewers and earned a 1.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic.
Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193