Oprah chokes up announcing show's end

Last show will be September 9, 2011
November 20, 2009 (CHICAGO) "After much prayer and months of careful thought, I've decided the next season, season 25, will be the last season," said Oprah Winfrey. "I love this show. I love it enough to know when it's time to say goodbye. Twenty-five years feels right, the perfect number, the exact right time."

Oprah made the emotional announcement on this morning's show while holding back tears.

Read the full announcement | Watch the announcement

Oprah, 55, had promised by the end of the year she would make a decision regarding the future of the show and on Friday she made good on that promise.

"I wanted you to hear directly from me," said Oprah during her Friday show. And with that, it was official -- next year will be the last for The Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago.

"I just want to say whether you've been with me from beginning or last week, I want you to know my relationship is one I hold very dear and your trust in me the sharing of your precious time every day has brought me the greatest joy I have ever known," said Oprah.

That bond led fans to visit Harpo Studios in the city's West Loop neighborhood.

"Oprah is such a beacon of Chicago and, and when she is going to get emotional it just waves across the crowd - and, um, it was a great show, a great day," said Lindsay Swanson, Oak Park.

"Very sweet very emotional very sincere so I think she made all of us feel good inside. She made us feel she is grateful for all the support and love. So it was great," said Angi Norris, Chicago.

In a statement, Oprah's Harpo Productions said she'll start work in January, 2011, on OWN, her long-awaited cable network collaboration with Discovery Health Network. Her fans -- clearly exiting the studio on an emotional high -- appeared more than willing to accept their heroine's decision.

"I think people were emotional, I think people were upset, but I also think people understand she is an incredibly smart woman who's got a lot of love in her heart and she knows what she is doing and people can respect that," said Jillian Harris, "The Bachelorette."

As fans lined up for the day's second show taping, people realized that while Oprah has a year to go, today's announcement marks the end of an era -- for the star, her followers and the city of Chicago

"It is a city that always pulls together and finds its way and I'm sure we will I'm sure Oprah is going to stay a big fan of the town," said Asaf Bar-Tura.

"She's one of us and the hard time and the bad times that we would go through and work through, that is what I admire in her," said Hyacinth Taloe.

Oprah first broke the news to her staff Thursday and shared it with her viewers Friday. Oprah's last show will be in September 2011.

"So, the countdown to the end of the 'Oprah Winfrey Show' starts now, and until that day in 2011 when it ends, I intend to soak up every meaningful, joyful moment with you," Oprah said.

ABC7's Cheryl Burton asked Oprah whether she planned to continue her show after the 25th season during a Michigan Avenue appearance with Ellen Degeneres on November 6.

"It is the big question of the day, Cheryl, and something I have to answer soon," said Oprah.

Oprah kicked off this season with a block party in Chicago on September 8. Check out her one-on-one interview with Cheryl Burton.

Economic impact of Oprah on Chicago

The presence of Oprah's show has funneled millions of dollars into the city over the years and brought a lot of national and international attention to Chicago.

So now what?

The draw of Oprah is obvious.

For two decades, the appeal of Oprah and her show have brought countless visitors to Chicago.

"They spend weekends in Chicago shopping, etc. And there is probably another several million dollars annually," said Mayor Daley.

From a commerce point of view, the Queen of Talk has had an impact on Chicago like no one else.

"The eyeballs that she has had on Chicago for the past 25 years have been. We couldn't buy that with all the money in the Federal Reserve Bank," said Jerry Roper, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

"She's been a huge factor in Chicago for many, many years as coming here as a young reporter and working here in the industry, and then, of course, she is globally recognized for her wonderful contribution," said Daley.

The Kimpton hotel chain has three Chicago properties. They are among those businesses grateful for Oprah's visitors.

One the Hotel's general managers says Oprah is reason for some of their leisure American and Foreign guests.

"It's going to hurt us and sad to see her leave, but she has been a great inspiration and it is not the cubs that are the hottest ticket in town. It's the Oprah ticket," said Nabil Moubayed, Hotel Monaco, Kimpton Hotels.

Closer to Harpo Studios, the West Loop neighborhood has been transformed. Several restaurants and retailers have opened catering to Oprah fans.

"It's been extraordinary. Oprah came to this neighborhood 25 years ago when the neighborhood was not established. So a lot of people fed off of that," said Martha Goldstein, West Loop Gate Community Organization.

Oprah's impact on city's civic pride

A spokesperson says she has no plans on moving, but when her show shuts down, Chicago will be losing its biggest ambassador.

Oprah Winfrey has become as synonymous with our city as the Sears Tower or Marshall Field's. But, like the names on those two landmarks, Oprah is saying so long.

"She really became part of this city," said Mayor Daley.

Daley phoned Oprah Friday morning to say two simple words: Thank you.

"She had an enormous opportunity to move it to other cities. New York or LA, any place in the country, they would have closed down the city and given her the keys, they would have given her everything," the mayor said.

While Oprah splits her time between homes in Chicago and California, the titan of TV talk has never been shy about being a big booster for Chicago. She personally pitched Chicago's Olympic bid and uses the city's skyline as a backdrop for her show.

Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert says his friend Oprah has a symbiotic relationship with her adopted hometown.

"Oprah and Chicago were good for each other," Ebert said. "Chicago made her seem more like an ordinary American and not like a typical Hollywood or Broadway type."

Mayor Daley says Winfrey reassured him that her West Loop studios and the staff she employs will continue to play a role in her future projects.

Oprah's decision to sign-off does solve one politically perilous problem the Mayor has endured for years...

"You know how many calls I get?" said Mayor Daley. "If I was in the ticket business -- people say, 'My wife, my daughter they all wanna go, they all wanna go to the Oprah show!' I say, 'Get in line, please.' "

Ebert tells a great story about going to dinner and a movie with Oprah back in the 80s when she was first thinking about taking her show national. She was going to give ABC ownership of her show. Ebert took a cocktail napkin and scribbled out the financial upside of syndication and a billionaire was born.

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