Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 17:41 UK

Des O'Connor to leave Countdown

Des O'Connor
The all-round entertainer secured his first UK TV series in 1963

Veteran TV presenter Des O'Connor has announced he is stepping down as the host of Countdown at the end of the current series in November.

He began as quizmaster on the Channel 4 show two years ago, replacing Des Lynam, who took over the reins when original host Richard Whiteley died.

But the 76-year-old said he had no plans to retire unless he thought the public no longer wanted him.

He will be working on his 36th album and is in talks about a West End show.

The entertainer wouldn't reveal any details about the production but said it was "something I've been keen to do".

Speaking of his time on Countdown, O'Connor said: "It's been wonderful hosting a programme which is part of TV folklore.

Family time

"I've made a lot of new friends. Carol Vorderman has been a joy... it's been a giggle since day one.

"But I miss the thrill of stepping out on a live stage for the one-man concerts and the challenge of live TV entertainment-based shows."

He said quitting the show would also mean he will be able to spend more time with his family, including three-year-old son Adam.

By the time he leaves, O'Connor estimates he will have anchored more than five hundred shows.

Des O'Connor
The singer says he misses the thrill of doing live shows

Fellow host Carol Vorderman, who has been with the programme since its debut 26 years ago, described O'Connor as a "true gentleman".

She said: "Audiences love him and we have had so many laughs in the studio and only last week we recorded some of our best shows."

As well as writing children's stories and poems, O'Connor is working on a new album with producer Alan Hawkshaw, with the working title Setting New Standards.

He said he already had a series of concerts lined up for the autumn.

The entertainer was recently awarded a CBE for his services to the industry. He landed his first TV series in the UK in 1963.

Channel 4 has yet to announce O'Connor's replacement on Countdown, which was the first programme to be broadcast on the channel.

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