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Chris Evans Bombshell: I've been offered 3m to go.. but I just want the job I love. By talking to The Mirror they'll probably fire me; EXCLUSIVE: HIS ONLY INTERVIEW.

Byline: PIERS MORGAN

CHRIS EVANS revealed last night he has been sensationally BANNED from doing his Virgin Radio show today - and offered pounds 3million to leave the station now by furious bosses.

In an emotional phone call to The Mirror he disclosed that he had received a formal letter from Scottish Media Group - who bought his company last year for pounds 75million - saying his recent behaviour had "embarrassed and humiliated" them.

Chris has been off sick for five days, provoking a storm of controversy by being photographed drinking in pubs and buying alcohol in a supermarket with bride Billie.

But he insisted: "I've been ill and there is a doctor in my kitchen right now who will confirm that to anyone. I won't say what's been wrong with me but I've not been well enough to do my show and that's that. They say I have embarrassed them but I don't see how.

"I want to come back and do my show today but they have said I'm banned and if I try to turn up they will physically stop me broadcasting or even entering the building."

His voice shaking with emotion, Evans raged: "I feel hurt - this is just totally unfair. I am the best DJ in Britain and I have worked my guts out for these people. Now they repay me with this.

"They offered me a lump sum one off payment tonight of pounds 3million to quit now. This is supposed to cover the last tranche of five million shares they owe me for the deal when SMG bought my company.

"But the current share price is pounds 1.60 and it's been as high as pounds 3.75 so they know if I accept this offer they will be saving themselves upto pounds 15million.

"The offer is supposed to mean that I don't talk to anyone or do any work until next March.

"But they can stuff that. I don't want their money. I want my freedom and I want to carry on doing the job that I love, presenting the best breakfast show on radio."

I have known Chris Evans for more than 10 years. Beneath the showbiz veneer lies a shrewd business brain and a ferocious passion for his work.

For him to pick the phone up and blow his top about his bosses like this is unprecedented - and I suspect terminal.

He admitted: "By doing this interview with you now I accept that there is a strong chance they will fire me today.

"They will say I have breached my contract and I guess I have.

"But I had to get this off my chest because I am sickened by what's going on here."

Evans revealed that he has wrestled with SMG management for months about his show.

"I think I know what I'm doing when it comes to radio and like anyone who runs a fast moving, populist, creative business I like to be in charge and do things my way.

"That means deciding what the hot stories are and how we do them on the show and stuff like that.

"It's instinctive and relies on me to a large degree. But it works, which is why I was able to sell my company for so much money.

"But the management here have been constantly poking their noses into the day to day running. "They have changed the music policy four times in 18 months, which anyone in the industry will tell you is a ridiculous thing to do. But despite that we were the only show on the station to actually increase our ratings in the last quarter.

"Now they say because I've had five days off sick they want me out. And they are offering me four per cent of my net worth to go.

"Do they think I'm stupid? Why the hell would I give up everything I've worked for for just four per cent of my net worth?'

"Money has never been that important to me. I now have enough never to worry about it again, which is great. But what I want is to do my show and enjoy doing it.

"Why do you think I get up at 4am every day to do it when I've got pounds 75million in the bank? I do it because I love it.

"They think I've orchestrated all this publicity this week for some agenda of my own. They rang my agent at 7am today demanding to know what the hell was going on.

"But all I'd done was go to the bloody supermarket, for God's sake. Billie and I were so concerned about even that, we hid in the back of a van and still we got photographed.

"It makes me furious that they think I want to be photographed going to the supermaket. Of course I don't. Why should I?"

Evans is legendary for being difficult to work for but he insisted: "I'm only difficult when I have to work for managers who can't deal with creative people.

"I am when people don't understand me and try and tell me how to do what I do very well."

Evans was handed 15million shares when SMG bought his Ginger Group, to be paid in three instalments. The last one is due in January and it is this batch that SMG are trying to pay off with the pounds 3 million lump sum.

But Evans said: "I think the shareholders might have a view about all this.

"When I sold the company to SMG the share price was pounds 2.57. It rose to pounds 3.75 but is now down to pounds 1.60. It dropped 25p today alone and they're trying to blame me.

"But I'm the only thing they've got actually doing the numbers.

"I am their biggest asset and we all know it. I'd be interested to know if the shareholders are happy at the prospect of me going like this. Because as someone who owns 10 million shares myself I can tell you I'm not."

Evans loves his radio show. And the imminent prospect of losing it has shocked him to the core.

I suggested that he might have no shortage of offers to take his show elsewhere but he snorted with derision. "I don't want to take it anywhere. I like it on Virgin.

"It works. The new format works brilliantly. The last show I did last Wednesday was probably the best show I've ever done.

"All this rubbish aboutme not being happy with the team is just that - rubbish. Some of them are my best friends, for God's sake."

It has been suggested that the arrival of Steve Penk from Capital Radio upset him but Evans laughed: "He's a great DJ but he's 42.

"The management are always banging on here about appealing to a younger audience so I would think I'm a better bet than Steve for that.

"I'm more than happy for him to do the drivetime slot and stand in for me when I'm on holiday. But to say I see him as some sort of rival is crazy.

"To give you some idea of the problems I've been having, they had a right go at me the other day for refusing to take part in a Radio Times feature about breakfast show DJs. They said I was the only one not doing it and I said that's the point, I SHOULD be the only one not doing it.

"But they said I was not committed enough to publicity. I had to laugh. I've been on the front page of every paper almost every day for the last year. I'd say I'm fairly committed to publicity, whether I like it or not."

Evans said he cannot understand the commercial decision to get rid of him.

"I'm not a financial expert but the company was worth pounds 1billion and it's now worth pounds 600million. You'd think they would want to hang onto their best talent, not toss it out."

He was angered by the behaviour of SMG bosses trying to oust him - John Pearson in particular.

"I have made John and others very wealthy and I expected to be treated better than this, frankly. A lot of people have done very well out of me but they seem to have short memories.

"I'm not bitter because there's no point. I am just very very upset. It is simpy not fair.

"These people have left me unbelievably stifled creatively and made it as difficult as they can for me to do my job."

He aded: "I can't believe it's come to this. When I sold Ginger I thought it was perfect - I had made all that money and could carry on doing the job I love.

"Now it's all apparently ending because I've had a few days off sick. Madness." Evans has been accused of being a virtual alcoholic for his regular boozing bouts with Billie and his mates.

But he hit back at his critics: "I like having fun and having a drink. So what? I'm a young guy who works hard and plays hard.

"You can't be a bloody alcoholic and get up at 4am to do my kind of hands on show.

"I defy anyone to say I'm anything but completely professional and always on top of my game when I'm on air.

"But if I want to get pissed a few times afterwards I will."

I asked what Billie makes of all the recent fuss.

"She loves me. It's as simple as that. We don't read most of it. we just have fun together and are really enjoying married life.

"If people wan to sneer, let them. It doesn't worry us. Why should it?

"She's not pregnant, we haven't split up. we're just having a good time thanks."

At this point Billie came on the line and said: "It's unfair to treat Chris like this. He works incredibly hard and he's a kind, generous man who just wants to do his show and entertain people.

"I love him to death. But more than that he's my best friend. So I care about what's happening now very much.

"He will sort it out, he always does. But he's very upset by it all and I don't blame him.

"He's been sick. We know how the media game works and we don't mind all the attention.

"But people have to understand that we don't live in the pub. We just get photographed there whenever we go for a drink so it creates that impression.

"We never seem to get photographed when we're gardening together or baking cakes.

"It may be a showbiz marriage to everyone else but to us it's a real one. I've met my soulmate in Chris and I'm so happy."

Evans said: "I just want people to know I'm really really sad about all this. I don't want their money. I want my job because I love it.

"Who knows what will happen in the morning?"

Virgin said in a statement: "We are exploring all the options open to us and expect to make an announcement this afternoon."

Earlier friends said Chris, 35, was ready to quit his job - sickened by attacks on his lifestyle and his marriage to 18-year-old Billie.

A friend said: "The vitriol directed at Chris and Billie has stunned and saddened him. He can take most things on the chin but attacks on Billie are unforgivable."

CAPTION(S):

OUTRAGED: Chris last night Picture: MATRIX; PROFESSIONAL: Evans on the air; DISTRAUGHT: Chris covers his face as he is driven back from the pub yesterday. He says he is unwell and that bosses want him out Picture: INS; LOVE: Chris resents talk that his marriage to wife Billie won't last Picture: PHIL HARRIS
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 28, 2001
Words:1968
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