Phillip Schofield’s lover was just 15 when they met at a talk the veteran TV presenter was giving at a theatre school, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
At the time, the schoolboy asked him for a job, and Schofield later arranged an interview for him. It led to a position as an ITV production assistant when he turned 18. Some time afterwards, their affair began.
Last night, as Schofield’s 38-year career in television lay in ruins, his This Morning co- presenter Holly Willoughby told of her devastation when she discovered he had lied to her about the relationship.
She revealed: ‘When reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and was told it was not. It’s been very hurtful to now find out that this was a lie.’
Today, this newspaper can reveal the real reason behind Schofield’s extraordinary statement on Friday in which he finally came clean about the relationship and apologised to the Mail for lying.
Phillip Schofield’s lover was just 15 when they met at a talk the veteran TV presenter was giving at a theatre school. Pictured: Phillip Schofield shares emotional walk with mum on May 21
At the time, the schoolboy asked him for a job, and Schofield later arranged an interview for him. It led to a position as an ITV production assistant when he turned 18. Some time afterwards, their affair began. Pictured: Phil with younger lover leaving The Ivy Club, London, in 2017
His This Morning co- presenter Holly Willoughby (right) told of her devastation when she discovered he had lied to her about the relationship.
Schofield admitted to cheating on his wife Stephanie Lowe (right) with a younger lover yesterday
The 61-year-old was forced to confirm allegations of an affair were true because his former lover – who had also worked on This Morning – had unexpectedly confessed all to his lawyers.
Schofield had hired top law firm Mishcon de Reya to represent the young man, now in his mid 20s, presumably believing that he would keep quiet.
But his former lover – who the MoS has chosen not to name – told lawyers that although he feared exposure, he was fed up lying about the relationship.
The Mail on Sunday, which first broke the scandal, can also reveal:
- Ms Willougby has vowed to carry on hosting This Morning with another presenter, although it’s feared the show has been irreparably damaged and could be axed;
- She also spoke of how ‘it’s taken time to process’ the bombshell admission from her former friend;
- ITV bosses face pressure to explain in detail what they knew of the affair and when – despite insisting that when they investigated rumours of a relationship in 2020, both denied it;
- MailOnline’s Dan Wooton revealed that he told a senior ITV executive about the ‘inappropriate relationship’ in 2019 but the network dismissed it as ‘malicious gossip’;
- Schofield’s lover stunned ITV colleagues at a 2020 awards ceremony by ‘declaring his love for Phil’;
- Questions were raised over whether Schofield only came out as gay a month later because ITV bosses feared a kiss-and-tell newspaper story.
Schofield met his future lover at the school in North West England when he was in his late 40s. Some years later the younger man became a production assistant on This Morning when Schofield was in his early 50s and their ill-advised friendship – which grew into a relationship – started.
The scandal over the affair follows a turbulent few months for Schofield, who for decades was ITV’s king of daytime television. But eight days ago he sensationally quit This Morning after 21 years after falling out with Ms Willoughby, 42. His departure came just a day after his younger brother Timothy was jailed for 12 years for 11 convictions of sexual offences involving a child.
Last night the ex-TV presenter described the relationship as ‘unwise but not illegal’ and appologised to his wife
Eight days ago Schofield sensationally quit This Morning after 21 years after falling out with Ms Willoughby, 42
Ms Willoughby – his friend of more than 14 years – was left upset that he didn’t tell her about his brother’s trial
Willoughby said on Instagram that it had ‘taken time to process’ the bombshell revelations about her ex co-host
Ms Willoughby – his friend of more than 14 years – was left upset that he didn’t tell her about his brother’s trial. It prompted Schofield to issue a statement without consulting her that only served to widen the rift. He said the pair had endured some difficult weeks but said she remained his ‘rock’.
When he quit the show, Schofield said: ‘I have always been proud to cover fascinating stories on This Morning. But recently, This Morning itself has become the story.
‘Throughout my career in TV – including the very difficult last few days – I have always done my best to be honourable and kind. I understand that ITV has decided the current situation can’t go on, and I want to do what I can to protect the show that I love.’
It is now thought Schofield will be replaced by Alison Hammond, who presents This Morning on Friday alongside Dermot O’Leary. Ms Willoughby has made it clear that she is her preferred choice.
This Morning’s editor Martin Frizell is also in favour of the two women pairing up after seeing the success of an all-female presenting duo on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing. The immediate plan is the show will return tomorrow with two stand-in presenters. Ms Willoughby will return next week following her extended half-term break.
Holly Willoughby held Schofield’s hand as he announced he was gay in February 2020 in a moving segment on This Morning
This Morning’s editor Martin Frizell is also in favour of the two women pairing up after seeing the success of an all-female presenting duo on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing
Ms Willoughby is one of the most sought-after women in showbusiness. The BBC has been trying to poach her for years, and in November she was seen at an awards ceremony with the broadcaster’s chief content officer Charlotte Moore
But despite ITV confirming it has no plans to axe Ms Willoughby, there is speculation within the industry that her position may soon become impossible. A source said: ‘There is a growing feeling that it might be better both for her and the programme to move on so that a line can be drawn under it all. There is a sense that the situation is fast becoming untenable for all involved.’
Fears have also been expressed that the scandal could hit ITV’s share price.
Ms Willoughby is one of the most sought-after women in showbusiness. The BBC has been trying to poach her for years, and in November she was seen at an awards ceremony with the broadcaster’s chief content officer Charlotte Moore.
Schofield personally hired Ms Willoughby to present This Morning alongside him in 2009 following Fern Britton’s departure from the programme.
At the time she was known for hosting children’s television and ITV’s X Factor spin-off, the Xtra Factor, and there were some concerns about her relative lack of experience. However, she soon became popular and eclipsed Schofield’s fame, which is said to have been a factor in their once-close friendship souring so badly.