Chris Evans, presenter of the most popular breakfast radio show in the UK, is leaving BBC Radio 2 after 13 years.
Evans will broadcast his last show in December 2018. In shock news for the radio industry, he has confirmed he will be joining the much smaller, commercial station Virgin Radio, to front its rival breakfast show.
Evans first broadcast at Virgin Radio in 1997, following an era-defining run fronting the BBC Radio 1 breakfast show. He left Virgin in 2001 after being dismissed for repeatedly failing to arrive at work.
In the latest RAJAR results (Q2 2018), BBC Radio 2 boasted an industry-leading audience of some 14.9m listeners, while Virgin Radio’s equivalent reach was pegged at just 413,000.
Virgin Radio is owned by Wireless, which re-launched the station in 2016.
Said Evans: “I have absolutely loved every single moment of my time at Radio 2. The last thirteen years have flashed by in what seems like the blink of an eye. I have learnt so much from so many people to whom I will be eternally grateful.
“As Sir Terry [Wogan] said before me, there’s never a right time to leave something you love but there might be a wrong time if you hang on too long. I honestly think The Breakfast Show is currently as positive, useful, sunny and inclusive as it has ever been. In fine shape for its next custodian. Whoever that turns out to be, I wish them all the very best, they are in for an absolute blast.”
Evans is currently the second highest-paid star at the BBC, earning £1.6m ($2.1m) per year.
In a further statement on his move to Virgin, Evans said: “In many ways Virgin Radio is my spiritual home. I see nothing but exciting and groundbreaking opportunities ahead.
“In a medium that is changing so quickly on a daily basis, the potential for growth is unprecedented.”
“Our plan is: to give it all we’ve got, see where we can get to and have the most possible fun along the way. It makes me smile every time I think about it.”
On-air today (September 3), Evans hinted as to why he might be leaving to join a digital-first, growing station like Virgin.
“The thing is, some of us are mountain climbers, and if you get to the top of your favourite mountain, and you just stay there, you become a mountain observer, so I’ve got to keep climbing – I’ve got to keep climbing.”
Scott Taunton, CEO of Wireless, said: “We are beyond thrilled that Chris has chosen to come back to Virgin Radio.
“He is the biggest name in radio and is synonymous with the brand. He has the most exciting Breakfast Show in the industry and has an energy that captivates audiences.
“This is a transformational moment for Virgin Radio since it relaunched two years ago.
“It is the next stage of our radio revolution, giving us a world-class presenter and a nationally recognised breakfast show that will drive audience growth for the station, across DAB, our app and all forms of connected listening.”
Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, says: “Chris has been an absolutely first class presenter of the Breakfast Show. He has brought both warmth and a genuine insight into what listeners want. He has given 100% to each of his BBC projects, including raising millions of pounds for Children in Need. I’d like to thank him for all his efforts over the years and wish him all the best for the future.”
Evans joined Radio 2 in September 2005 as the host of the Saturday afternoon show, moving to Drive Time in April 2006. He subsequently won Sony Music Radio Personality of the Year 2006, 2007 and 2009 and Drive Time won The Entertainment Award in 2007 and 2009.
Evans took over from Sir Terry Wogan as the host of the Radio 2 Breakfast Show in January 2010, taking the show to a peak audience of 9.91m (RAJAR – Q2 2014). Evans won the ARIA for Best Music Radio Breakfast Show in 2016, the same year that Radio 2 won Best National Station.
During his time on the Breakfast Show, Evans has raised many millions of pounds for Children in Need, from his two annual festivals CarFest as well as his on-air fundraising.
Bob Shennan, Director, BBC Radio and Music (and former Radio 2 controller) says: “Chris has been done an incredible job for Radio 2 for more than a decade. He has taken Breakfast radio to new heights and is one of the greats. We will miss him and plan to build an even stronger station, taking inspiration from both his, and his predecessor Sir Terry Wogan’s, legacy.”
Lewis Carnie, Head of Radio 2 says: “Over the past eight years on Breakfast, Chris has built an incredibly close relationship with the Radio 2 audience. I’d like to thank him, on behalf of them all, for becoming their friend via the airwaves. We look forward to launching a brand new Radio 2 Breakfast Show early in the New Year.”Music Business Worldwide