Paul O’Grady thanked his listeners and said he can now “run free” as he signed off from his final BBC Radio 2 show on Sunday.
O’Grady, 67, had hosted the Sunday afternoon programme for nearly 14 years before a schedule shake-up meant he shared the hosting role with the comic Rob Beckett, swapping every 13 weeks.
In a social media message posted before the show, he said his departure was down to the new arrangement.
“The reason I’m leaving, because everybody’s asked me this, is because I wasn’t really happy with the 13 weeks on, 13 weeks off business,” he said in an Instagram post on Sunday.
“So I did the honourable thing. I honoured my contract, gave my notice in and now I’m off. Thanks very much and good luck to everyone on Radio 2 and long may it continue.”
During his last show, he reflected on his time in the hot seat to his producer Malcolm Prince. “This is the last Sunday Paul O’Grady show here on Radio 2 ever. It’s hard to say this, Malcolm, because it’s been almost 14 years, hasn’t it?
“Do you know this is one of the longest jobs I’ve ever held down. I only came to do a few hours for Elaine Paige and look what happened.”
He continued: “Anyway, I always used to say I was running from the building and there was a great big bubble that would catch me on Oxford Street, and bring me back like a prisoner, but it’s not today and I can run free.
O’Grady thanked his listeners for tuning in and getting involved over the years. He also thanked his producer, saying: “I really appreciate it because, let’s face it, it wouldn’t have been the same without you, would it?”
After playing his last song, Friends by Bette Midler, he added: “From all of us here, from me and from Malcolm and everybody, thank you for tuning in these past 546 programmes. So you look after yourselves, stay safe and well. Ta-ra everyone.”
The BBC confirmed Beckett would return for at least another 13 weeks of shows from 21 August.
O’Grady is the latest big-name presenter to leave the station. Steve Wright, also 67, was replaced by Scott Mills, 48, after 24 years on the network.
And in July, Vanessa Feltz, 60, announced she was leaving her shows on Radio 2 and BBC Radio London.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We respect Paul’s decision to leave Radio 2 and wish him the best of luck in the future.”