Toxic rifts with fellow presenters, investments in a controversial tax scheme, and now a simmering feud with Amanda Holden. ALISON BOSHOFF asks: Is ‘TV nice guy’ Phillip Schofield really Mr Nasty?
Pull up a chair and make sure you are sitting comfortably, because even by the toxic standards of daytime television, this is a ding-dong of a feud.
In one corner is Phillip Schofield, the eternally smiling sofa fixture who fronts This Morning alongside Holly Willoughby and is said to be worth £8 million.
On the other is Amanda Holden, the bubbly TV presenter and ITV darling who brings glamour to Saturday night TV (thought to be worth a mere £6 million). And the whole ruckus between two of its stars couldn’t be more embarrassing for ITV.
The rather unseemly — if delicious — row began when Phillip was said to have fallen out with Amanda last year.
In one corner is Phillip Schofield (right). On the other is Amanda Holden (left), the bubbly TV presenter and ITV darling who brings glamour to Saturday night TV (thought to be worth a mere £6 million). And the whole ruckus between two of its stars couldn’t be more embarrassing for ITV
Why? Well Amanda was in the frame to stand in for Holly alongside him on This Morning, when Holly was picked to help out on I’m A Celebrity. However Phillip then apparently made it clear that he’d rather work with someone else.
News of the fall-out first emerged a few weeks later, when Amanda was a guest on This Morning and took him to task over the issue during a commercial break — while her microphone was still on.
Despite reports which suggested she had ticked him off ferociously, she said no more about it, and there you might imagine this fall-out might end.
The rather unseemly — if delicious — row began when Phillip (pictured on BBC’s Going Live!) was said to have fallen out with Amanda last year
But, taking the microphone on her first day at Heart FM earlier this month, Amanda said that three things she wouldn’t like in her house were: ‘spiders, flies and Phillip Schofield’ — and the whole thing started up anew.
This weekend, the row flared again with ‘friends’ of Holden saying how ‘betrayed’ she had felt at the time, as she had been told by executives over lunch that the temporary job was hers only to have it scuppered by his, she says, intervention. (It is claimed he wanted — and got — pop singer-turned-tv presenter Rochelle Humes in the end).
These indiscreet friends of Holden said that she had gone so far as to raise the issue with ITV boss Kevin Lygo, and unnamed sources painted a picture of Schofield which was unflattering to say the least.
Fellow TV presenters Eamonn Holmes and wife Ruth Langsford were previously said to have been ‘vocal’ about his behaviour also (though neither of them wish to say a word now.) The word ‘toxic’ was used.
It was noted that the ever-ambitious Schofield had actually wanted Holly’s job standing in on I’m A Celebrity himself, but that bosses had preferred Holly to him.
In the face of all this criticism Schofield, who has risen from being the sidekick of Gordon the Gopher on children’s TV to become one of the most successful faces on the box, decided to break with the protocol which dictates you never publicly criticise a professional colleague.
On Sunday night, he wrote on Twitter: ‘The end of another really sad weekend. When you try for 35 years to be the easiest, most fun person to work with and you read such hurtful and wildly untrue stories from nameless ‘sources’. Obviously I’ll take it on the chin … I just hope you know me better.’
Undaunted by his tone of sorrowful reproof, Amanda Holden let slip on her Heart FM breakfast show yesterday morning that she had asked him for a coffee — and he hadn’t even said ‘No thanks’.
She said: ‘I did offer to meet him for a coffee months ago, he didn’t reply to my text. What can I say?’
Their comments came as This Morning guest presenter Sophie Prescott called for Amanda to be sacked over the rumours. She hosted a craft segment on the show last October for Halloween and claimed she found Amanda difficult to work with, adding she was ‘controlling, selfish and difficult’.
Holden, 48, is tremendously valuable to ITV as a long-standing judge on their Saturday night hit, Britain’s Got Talent. She evidently feels she can throw her weight around a bit and isn’t scared of push-back from her nemesis on the same network.
The question now is whether there’s a bit of a different side to Phil, 57. Agent Jon Roseman, who looked after Schofield’s first This Morning partner Fern Britton, tells me despite his squeaky image, he has a reputation as an ‘arch manipulator’. Fern quit the show after discovering that he was being paid around three times as much as she was.
Their comments came as This Morning guest presenter Sophie Prescott (pictured) called for Amanda to be sacked over the rumours
They were colleagues on the show from 2002 to 2009. Roseman said: ‘From day one he began to interfere with the editorial content of the show. Fern always left it to the editor, a mistake she attempted to rectify, but too late.
‘His stranglehold was too tight by the time she recognised what he was up to. Their ability to work together was up there with the Eamonn Holmes/Anthea Turner friction.
‘He befriended Simon Shaps, the then boss of the network centre. After this friendship, all bets were off … he just got what he wanted.’
In truth, Schofield has ruffled plenty of feathers over his career. There are whispers — which he denies — that he is jealous of This Morning co-host Holly Willoughby, who is earning millions from advertising endorsements and has almost twice as many followers as he does on social media.
It is notable that since she started landing big-money advertising deals with Diet Coke and Marks & Spencer he has done the same, with promos for Princess Cruises, Waitrose and We Buy Any Car.
Clearly there are sensitivities in play as his management demanded and got a written apology after a magazine ran a story on them both, with the headline saying Holly had ‘eclipsed him’.
Veteran TV agent Mike Hollingsworth said: ‘I can remember several occasions when clients of mine were booked to appear and stood down. I was told privately Phillip Schofield had a veto on the guests if he didn’t like them.
‘One of them was stood down on several occasions. It got so bad I insisted on being guaranteed the whole fee even if they were stood down, which led to a standoff and lawyers getting involved.
Frosty: Sophie and Amanda worked together on a Halloween show last year, but Sophie said Amanda should be ‘yellow-carded’ and sacked from ITV for her behaviour
‘It wouldn’t surprise me if he has control over who he shares the sofa with — after all it wouldn’t do to be overshadowed, would it?’ And, in further blows to that cleaner-than-clean image he has a surprising past. It can also be revealed that he is among a number of celebrities who have invested in Ingenious, the controversial tax deferral scheme.
In 2006, Schofield invested in the Ingenious Film Partnership 2 LLP. The scheme was an opportunity for him and over 1,000 other wealthy individuals to put money into film financing and then claim tax relief. But in June 2017 a tax tribunal ruled that these incentives were not allowable deductions.
David Beckham didn’t get a knighthood in 2014 because his investment in Ingenious was a ‘red flag’ from HMRC to the honours committee. The singer Robbie Williams was blocked from receiving an OBE this year after apparently ploughing £2 million into the scheme.
It’s not known how much money Schofield invested, but to enter the scheme takes a minimum investment of £100,000 and some put in investments of up to £5 million individually.
He is, though, a very wealthy man. He has a £2 million-a-year golden handcuffs deal with ITV and has cast-iron friendships forged with the TV executives who can guarantee his fortune.
Schofield (right) has ruffled plenty of feathers over his career. There are whispers — which he denies — that he is jealous of This Morning co-host Holly Willoughby (left), who is earning millions from advertising endorsements and has almost twice as many followers as he does on social media
Phillip Bryan Schofield has always believed telly stardom was his destiny. He sent in his first job application to the BBC when he was ten years old, and by the time he was 17 had sent in 100 more. He would type them in a bid to disguise his young age.
His bedroom was turned into a studio, with spotlights and a stage, and younger brother Tim was incessantly interviewed about every aspect of his life. Schofield once joked that little Tim’s first words were: ‘No comment.’
While other children dreamed of being astronauts or train drivers, he only ever wanted to be on TV. At bedtime he would ‘sign off’ into his mirror.
He said: ‘My parents must have thought I was crazy but they were amazingly tolerant. Apart from a moment in infants’ school when I thought I wanted to become a grave-digger, I never had a thought about pursuing another career.’
Father Brian was a French-polisher and his mother worked in a care home for the elderly. For most of his childhood they lived in Cornwall.
Aged 17, he got himself a job at the BBC as a bookings clerk, but soon afterwards his parents decided to emigrate to New Zealand. He decided he ‘couldn’t do’ without them, following them to the other side of the world and launching himself there instead.
By the end of a four-year period there, he had his own radio programme, a television series, and presented the 1984 New Zealand music awards.
When he returned he started doing links for children’s shows — notable in that they were transmitted from what appeared to be a BBC broom cupboard — before moving onto the channel’s Saturday morning flagship youth programme, Going Live in 1987.
At one point he received 500 fan letters a week, chiefly from love-lorn teenage girls.
He told an interviewer at the time: ‘Sometimes when these youngsters have been waiting outside for me, for hours in the cold, it would be so easy to give them a lift to the Tube or whatever. But I can’t. It would only take one of them to make up some cock-and-bull story for a Sunday tabloid and that would be a disaster.
‘A lot of 13-year-olds I meet are quite adult. When they hang around places waiting for me I wonder if their parents really know where they are. I have to be very careful.’
By now, his career was being guided by Peter Powell and James Grant management — to whom he has remained loyal ever since. Powell and Schofield have been lifelong friends, along with showbusiness agent Russ Lindsay, whose late wife was former Blue Peter presenter Caron Keating.
Happier: Things appeared to be much more friendly when Sophie worked with Holly and Phil
They formed the ‘Chiswick mafia’ of young media friends, and would go out and party.
He said: ‘It wasn’t a case of hiding it. I did the same as everybody else. I was a lad; we partied a bit, but I didn’t hide anything. It’s just that nobody bothered to look in the right place.
‘By the way, when I say partying, my weakness has always been booze. I never got into drugs, because I wasn’t very good at it.
‘We were simply getting leathered in Chiswick. Everybody knew us and nobody was bothered, and nobody would tell.’ (He’s still a great booze enthusiast with two cellars in his £1.5 million house in Henley-on-Thames — one under the floor for every day drinking, and a 9,000 bottle cellar under the floor of his garage for the special stuff. The pick of his collection is a 1947 Cheval Blanc, the ‘claret from another planet’ worth at least £30,000 a bottle.)
He began dating Stephanie Lowe, a production assistant, when he was 25 and they married in 1993. His agent Peter Powell persuaded him to follow Neighbours star Jason Donovan onto stage as the lead in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
For someone who had never acted professionally, and had barely sung, it was a bold risk. He ended up touring with the show for three years.
At this time, he developed a fondness for gambling. In an interview in 2006 he said: ‘I adore roulette. I love it, but it’s something I can control.’
These were fallow years, with a role in a gameshow, Talking Telephone Numbers. Daughter Molly was born when he was 31, followed by Ruby two years later.
It was 2002, when he was 40, that Schofield finally hit the big time after This Morning presenter John Leslie was sacked. Schofield, who had been on the rota of presenters who filled in on Fridays, was given the job.
Fern Britton was already in the chair, and viewers were convinced that they had natural chemistry. She appeared, if anything, to be the senior figure on the show. However in March 2009 she surprised many by announcing she would be moving on in order to spend time with her family.
It turned out that much angst had been generated by the fact Phillip was being paid three times as much as her — she was on £700,000 a year for presenting the show, while Schofield was being paid a colossal combined sum of £2 million a year, for fronting This Morning, Dancing on Ice and All Star Mr & Mrs.
Fern was said to have been particularly angry when she discovered Schofield was paid £45,000 for All Star Mr & Mrs — while she was paid just £15,000.
Her then-agent Jon Roseman said: ‘What he wanted, and it was vital to his ego, was to have parity with Fern’s fees, but the budget couldn’t handle such an increase.
‘He managed this remarkably cleverly. He cut a golden deal with the Network Centre. Given a bunch of other shows his deal was amortised over all the shows and thus didn’t break the This Morning budget, but he had the satisfaction of knowing he was now better paid than Fern.’
It’s no surprise they are no longer speak. Phil told Heat magazine: ‘We were involved in the show and mates at the time, but we don’t really … we’re not in touch now.’
The appointment of Holly Willoughby as Fern’s replacement was, reportedly, at his suggestion. He had enjoyed working with her on Dancing On Ice and they are by all accounts close friends now as well as good colleagues.
Indeed, she posted a message on Instagram recently noting that Phil is: ‘One of my best friends’ and he replied saying: ‘Thank you bestie, love you, too.’
They have been on a family holiday together in the Algarve and she will be in his corner during this row — as are his paymasters at ITV.
An ITV spokesman said: ‘Phillip is a much-loved broadcaster and part of the ITV family. He’s a consummate professional.’
However, it seems unlikely Amanda would agree.
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