He'll tell you that at 83, it was time. Simple as that. But an online article in Radar suggests that he was pushed out by CBS because of a threatened "Price is Right" lawsuit - what would be the ninth in 13 years. This time, the charges come from CBS prize administrator Debbie Curling, who resigned from the network in October after refusing to sign an agreement with a nondisclosure clause. She laid out a bunch of stuff to writer Chris Mann about how Barker tolerated bad behavior behind the scenes (he's executive producer), although the network denies Curling's claims.
Of course, this is becoming familiar territory for Barker, who went through an $8 million sexual harassment lawsuit in the 1990s involving his one-time girlfiriend Dian Parkinson (she posed for Playboy and claimed Barker demanded sex in exchange for job security on the show). The suit wound up being dropped. "As god is my witness," he told Larry King several years back, "I have never forced her to do one thing that she did not want to do, ever, sexually or any other way, ever. I admitted that we had had a sexual relationship, very brief, but it had been consensual." Barker signed a five-year extension to his contract in early 2006, so naturally there's grist for speculation on why the long-time host decided to call it quits with little advance notice. (It's worth noting that Curling's attorney, Nick Alden, has represented almost every female complainant in litigation against "The Price is Right.")
Barker has denied wrongdoing in every single case and claimed that he wanted to see each suit to trial but that "various companies" behind the show opted to settle. "These were frivolous lawsuits based on distortions, exaggerations, or outright falsehoods," he said. In 2000 he told the L.A. Times that his models' problems "have nothing to do with the show or with me. It's all in the minds of the women." Women, it seems, have always been at the heart of Barker's successes and struggles. But none of his original Barker's Beauties—who helped craft his smooth operator image—appeared in either of his farewell specials. In fact, the few women to share the host's spotlight in his recent CBS tribute were present in memory only—his deceased mother, Tilly Valandra, and the woman Barker credits for all of his successes, late wife Dorothy Jo Barker, whom Price alums describe as "the one true love of Barker's life."