Hard Choices: Larry King
It was 1989, and I had been doing Larry King Live for about four years. My contract with CNN was up, and I had three months to look around. My agent, the late Bob Woolf, got a lot of substantial offers for me to consider.
Fox (NWS) wanted me. ABC (DIS) said they wanted to put me on behind Ted Koppel. The King brothers [of King World Productions] wanted to give me a deal similar to the one they had given Oprah. The show would be syndicated and I would get 9 percent of the profits.
I was making $800,000 at the time and the deals would have paid me $1.5 million. It should have been a no-brainer. I decided to take one of them, and I told Bob to get it done. It was a good time to take the chance. My show was doing well, and it was a lot of money.
I remember getting picked up that night at LAX. I was dating Angie Dickinson at the time, and we were going to dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The next morning, at 6 a.m., I get a phone call from Ted Turner in New York. He's got Bob Woolf in his office and they're on speakerphone.
"I hear you want to leave," Ted says to me. "Say it to my face." I hear Bob behind him saying, "That's unethical." But Ted says, "Screw the ethics. Tell me goodbye to my face."
That's when I remembered discussing it with Angie the night before. She had asked me, "Are you unhappy, is that why you're leaving?" I wasn't. She said, "If you take all that money, the moment you're unhappy you're going to say to yourself: Why the heck did I make the change?"
She was right. I told Ted I was going to stay. Our show started to take off, and pretty soon I was making a lot more money. It turned out to be the right decision. Sometimes you don't need to make a change to succeed. Sometimes success is right in front of you.
Later on, I was at The Palm restaurant in Washington. Michael King was sitting across the room from me. He stands up and shouts, "I made you big money!"