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He declared his love for Phil at a glitzy awards ceremony… then got shunted to another show

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As he surveys the ruins of his career, Phillip Schofield will no doubt recall a fateful phone call he received some 12 years ago.

At the time, it wouldn’t have seemed exceptional or ill omen. Exactly the kind of phone call celebrities receive all the time. Could he give a lecture to some children at a theater school?

The caller was a friend of both Schofield and his wife Stephanie Lowe, and a relative of one of the drama students, a 15-year-old boy.

Schofield, then in his late forties, liked to find time in his busy schedule – by then he had already presented This Morning with Holly Willoughby for several years – and traveled to the theater in a town in North West England. In all likelihood, his visit caused great excitement. As always, he was enthusiastic, encouraging and generous with his time.

It is easy to see how the schoolboy must have enjoyed the attention this showbiz connection had generated and, encouraged, afterwards asked the presenter if he could help him get a job in television. Again, this can’t be the first request Schofield received.

RUMORS: Schofield and the young man, whom we do not wish to identify, are leaving The Ivy in London in March 2017

Phil with a younger colleague who became his lover and left The Ivy Club, London

Phillip Schofield with Stephanie Lowe at the National Television Awards arrival at the O2 in 2014

The presenter promised to give the boy an interview at the right time, but nothing more. Still, it was a foot in the door and the boy, still a year or more away from completing his GCSEs, made Schofield keep his promise.

Bright and handsome, though young for his age in some ways, he made a good impression when he was finally invited to London. He started working on This Morning when he was in his late teens.

What quickly became clear is that shortly after the boy’s arrival on the set of This Morning, he seemed to be unusually close to the presenter. Even if nothing unpleasant to begin with, it was certainly an ill-advised friendship on the part of Schofield, who is now in his early fifties.

In television, reputation is everything, especially on the sane side of Phil and Holly, who both enjoyed spotless image.

Schofield’s friend was popular and hard-working. There was little doubt that Schofield was a thoughtful mentor. But to what level had their relationship progressed? It was a question, albeit privately, asked by their gossiping colleagues, who noted that the pair could often be found huddling in eateries close to the riverside ITV studios.

So this was the extraordinary background to Schofield’s explosive affair with his ‘much younger’ colleague, first revealed today by The Mail on Sunday. It wasn’t until 2020 that ITV began investigating the rumours.

This newspaper understands that the channel’s investigation was probably prompted by an incident at the beginning of that year. For some time Schofield had been in the habit of inviting his young lover to glitzy occasions, often with raised eyebrows. At one event, an awards ceremony, Schofield’s boyfriend stunned his ITV colleagues by declaring, as one put it, ‘his love for Phil in no uncertain terms’.

But according to ITV yesterday, the boy was less candid when bosses questioned him some time later. Both he and Schofield “categorically and repeatedly” denied the rumors, as did Schofield’s then agency, YMU. But there was an even bigger bomb in store for the This Morning team.

Phil with a younger colleague who became his lover and left The Ivy Club, London

The presenter promised to give the boy an interview at the right time, but nothing more. Still, it was a foot in the door and the boy, still a year or more away from his GCSEs, made Schofield keep his promise

The caller was a friend of both Schofield and his wife Stephanie Lowe, and a relative of one of the drama students, a 15-year-old boy.

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In television, reputation is everything, especially on the sane side of Phil and Holly, who both enjoyed spotless image.

On February 7 of that year, Schofield announced live on air that he was gay. Flanked by his then-best friend and co-star Holly, he burst into tears as he revealed his “inner conflict.”

But he was now ready to “celebrate and be proud of his sexuality,” he said, despite his 26-year marriage to his wife Stephanie, a former BBC production assistant.

He said: ‘You never know what’s going on in someone’s seemingly perfect life, what problems they’re struggling with or how their well-being is – so you don’t know what’s been on my mind for the past few years.

“With the strength and support of my wife and daughters, I’ve been able to accept that I’m gay.” Schofield was also comforted by former This Morning hosts Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford, who knew nothing about the announcement until minutes before the cameras started rolling. Not long after, his young lover was moved to another ITV show. Sources said yesterday his brief stay there was notable for the time he spent with Schofield.

Yet their secret remained intact. And their affair was still denied two weeks ago when The Mail on Sunday contacted ITV and Schofield’s lawyers.

Far from getting him out of the way, ITV said the young man’s move had been a promotion.

However, a source at ITV told us at the time: ‘He and Phil were close and then he just went on another programme.

“It was strange, the two men stopped talking so much.

“Phil was such a support to him, he really was a talented and hard-working man.

“Some of the network’s biggest names at the time expressed surprise, he was very popular. He never really talked about it, it was very mysterious.’

There the matter remained until Schofield’s astonishing letter to me on Friday. It read: “It is essential that I say directly to you personally that I am deeply sorry that I have misled you and your colleagues at the Mail through an email sent on my instructions by my lawyer, whom I also misled, about a relationship with a colleague at This Morning.

“I honestly thought at the time I was doing the right thing to protect my ex-colleague who I knew was vulnerable and who desperately wanted the story unpublished.

“I accept that I should not have misled you, nevertheless, and I expect no mercy. However, I ask you to show as much compassion to him as possible as he is the innocent party by not mentioning him by name. My best wishes, Phillip Schofield.”

But what had caused this amazing vortex? At the beginning of last week, he decided to spend an eye-watering sum on legal aid for his former lover. It turned out that this sealed his fate.

Schofield hired top London law firm Mishcon de Reya to act for the man, now in his mid-twenties, and his own lawyer. interest. But the outcome was one that Schofield did not see coming.

The lawyers’ agenda included The Mail on Sunday, published two weeks ago, which revealed that the young man had mysteriously departed from This Morning. There were claims that he and Schofield had fallen out and that the younger man’s colleagues were surprised to see him leave for new pastures. In response, Schofield lodged a complaint with the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the watchdog for the UK’s newspaper and magazine industry. It exists to hold print publications accountable for their actions, protect individual rights, maintain high journalistic standards and help preserve press freedom.

At the same time he fired his complaint, Schofield’s spinners informed other publications that they had complained and that the story should not be repeated. This newspaper has put up a strong defense – and the complaint has now been formally withdrawn.

But it’s what happened next that almost certainly ended the career of the £20 million former king of daytime television for good. Schofield learned that his former partner was unwilling to lie about their affair.

Instead, he told his lawyer that they had been in a relationship, and that was his honest point of view. He added that he was just tired of lying. Schofield had no way out.

He was then forced to turn back and told his management company YMU, who had represented him for 35 years, that he had lied and that he had indeed cheated on his wife with the young man.

YMU – widely seen as the most powerful show business agency in the UK – quickly dropped him and told ITV bosses of his admission.

Schofield then sent me the fawning apology on Friday, admitting that he had lied to this paper. He also announced he had left ITV with immediate effect and would not be hosting next Saturday’s British Soap Awards – a role he has held since 2006.

ITV had no idea Schofield would be relinquishing the show they had offered him as a sweetener when he was dropped last weekend. Now they have to look for a replacement.

As for Schofield – once thought so powerful at ITV that he could hire or fire anyone he wanted – he is “licking his wounds” with his daughters as he ponders his next move. One thing is for sure, his chances of a showbiz comeback are slim indeed.

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