Anyone looking to usurp the Guinness world record for most hours logged on television from Regis Philbin can now mark late summer 2011 as his or her start date. The morning television mainstay announced on his show, Live With Regis and Kelly, that he is calling it quits after more than 40 years in the business.

After announcing his impending departure to an audibly saddened crowd, the 79-year-old joked, “There comes a time that everything must come to an end for certain people on camera – especially old people.”

Primarily known for his 28 years on Live, Philbin is also an Emmy Award-winner three times over and original host of the wildly popular game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. His storied television career began at local stations, but in 1967, when Philbin was named as Joey Bishop’s sidekick on his brief late-night show, he garnered his first national exposure. After bouncing around Los Angeles for several years, he moved back home to New York to host a new morning television program, The Morning Show.

The show would undergo a myriad of changes in both name and co-hosts, but Philbin was always the mainstay. In 1988, the show brought on Kathie Lee Gifford, and was appropriately renamed Live with Regis and Kathie Lee for the next twelve years. Gifford departed in 2000, and the show was renamed for a third time to the simpler: Live with Regis. However, that moniker lasted only twelve months. In 2001, Kelly Ripa was introduced as Philbin’s new co-host, and since that time the program has been known as Live with Regis and Kelly.

Ripa summed up her near-decade seated beside Philbin by saying, “I think I can only speak for America and all of us here, when I say it has been a pleasure and a privilege and a dream come true. And I wish I could do something to make you change your mind.”

However, Philbin’s declaration should come as no surprise. Many of his recent statements have teased his impending retirement. “I do love being off. The years are going by, and I have reached a point in my life when, frankly, most guys my age have been retired for a few years.”

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Fans of Live can rest assured; ABC has already confirmed the franchise will undergo yet another transformation, one that will likely be its most daunting. Live With Regis and Kelly plans to “welcome top guests and feature special segments” during the next several months, as the show leads up to Philbin’s farewell. A new co-host to join Ripa will likely be named prior to Philbin’s final episode.

Source: Wall Street Journal, PopEater