Kathie Lee Gifford had informed NBC in January 2017 that she would leave at the end of the year to pursue film projects, but her plans shifted after Lauer was fired in November

Kathie Lee Gifford‘s departure from the Today show comes a year later than she had originally planned.

Gifford, 65, previously told PEOPLE that she had informed NBC in January 2017 that she would leave at the end of the year to pursue film projects. But Matt Lauer‘s overnight firing in November for alleged sexual misconduct prompted her to shift her plans.

“You get to a point of your life where you run out of time to do what you want to do,” she explained. But after Lauer left, “things changed.”

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“Some things were painful for us. And we had to adjust, and then they said, ‘If we accommodate your schedule, will you consider staying?’ ” she said. “I wasn’t looking to get out, but I needed the time. So when they accommodated the schedule, then there was no reason to leave. … There’s no better place in a 50-year career. It all worked out, so I’m staying.”

Lauer, 60, was officially replaced by Hoda Kotb, who also co-hosts the show’s popular fourth hour with Gifford.

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While announcing the “bittersweet” news of her departure to viewers on-air Tuesday, Gifford became emotional as she touched on her special friendship with Kotb, 54, saying she “fell in love” with her during their nearly 11 years together.

Hoda Kotb (left) and Kathie Lee Gifford
| Credit: Nathan Congleton/Getty

“I love everybody here so much,” she said. “I’ve been in this business 120 years and never worked with a more beautiful group of people who just give, give, give, every day. Four hours of live television every day, five days a week. We have fun and we laugh and we support one another and we know each other’s kids names and we know when someone’s having a colonoscopy. We know everything! We do life together.”

Gifford joined the Today show in 2008. She will remain with the show until her 11th anniversary on April 7, 2019.