Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Tearful GMTV goodbye for Phillips

Fiona Phillips on her last show. Courtesy GMTV
Phillips has been a main presenter on GMTV since 1996

Presenter Fiona Phillips has hosted GMTV for the final time after nearly 16 years with ITV's breakfast broadcaster.

The tearful 47-year-old, who joined GMTV when it launched in 1993, told viewers leaving was "one of the hardest decisions I've ever made".

She ended the show by saying: "I will not forget your kindness, thank you."

Phillips has left the show to spend more time with her father, who has Alzheimer's, as well as her husband and two young sons.

Her mother, who died two years ago, suffered from the same illness.

'Special way'

At the start of the show, she told viewers it had been "a privilege to be in your homes every morning".

Congratulations on the support that you've won throughout the country
Gordon Brown

Letters of support from viewers had left her "blubbing in my dressing room every day", she added.

Recorded tributes were shown from celebrities including Chelsea player Frank Lampard, Kate Winslet and Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman while Phillips spoke to Donny Osmond - who she has had a crush on for years - via satellite from Las Vegas.

Winslet said: "I've loved every occasion that I've had a chance to meet you, now go home and have a wonderful time with your kids."

And, in a letter, David and Victoria Beckham thanked Phillips for "all your support over the years".

Fiona Phillips
The presenter left GMTV's studios laden with gifts and flowers

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a recorded message: "Congratulations on the support that you've won throughout the country."

And Conservative leader David Cameron said: "The sofa will never be the same without you - you had a special way of getting to the heart of every story and explaining it in a way that everybody could understand."

Guests in the studio on the final show, which also featured a montage of highlights of her time at GMTV, included Girls Aloud.

"I need to be with my children and my dad and my husband and be nice to him for once," Phillips said at the end of the show.

She is married to the station's programme editor Martin Frizell.

Career rethink

She began her GMTV career as an entertainment correspondent, before spending two years as the Los Angeles reporter and then landing the main presenting job.

I need to be with my children and my dad and my husband and be nice to him for once
Fiona Phillips
She told the Sunday Times in September that the strain of looking after both parents, along with the demands of childcare and marriage, had prompted her career rethink.

"I'm 47 and my mum was in her late fifties when she developed Alzheimer's, so I am very aware that I may have only 10 years left of life as I know it," she said.

"I must admit that it has contributed to my feeling of time flashing by. Why slog away getting up at 4am when you might not be able to look after your family in the way you want to later on?"

Sky News business presenter Emma Crosby will replace Phillips, joining Andrew Castle, Kate Garraway and Ben Shephard as co-presenters.

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