Bryant Gumbel and his first wife, June Baranco, may have stayed together for over two decades, but their relationship was far from perfect. She once said he "shot" her through the heart.
Born in September 1948, Bryant Gumbel is a TV journalist and sportscaster best known for hosting HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," one of the most respected sports programs of the last few decades.
Although his career has been nothing short of outstanding, his personal life, especially the marriage to his first wife, June Baranco, has raised many eyebrows and made many headlines.
Bryant Gumbel on the "Today" show in December 2013 | Photo: Getty Images
THE LOVE STORY
The former couple met in the late 1960s through one of Baranco's friends who was dating Greg, Gumbel's brother. At the time, she was 16 or 17 years old, and he was unemployed and had a "broken-down pair of sneakers."
Their relationship was unusual right from the start. Even though they were both from Louisiana (he was born in New Orleans, and she grew up in Baton Rouge), they met in Chicago during Baranco's summer vacation between high school and college.
At the time, she noticed he was self-assured, quick-witted, well-spoken, intelligent, and "so different" from the men she had previously dated, especially for his charisma and spark.
Bryant Gumbel on January 8, 2015 in Pasadena, California | Photo: Getty Images
Gumbel and Baranco hit it off right away, and they spent most of the early 1970s visiting each other. Things got more complicated when he finished college, though.
Trying to pursue a career as a magazine sportswriter in New York, he rented an apartment in Manhattan. June Baranco didn't live with him at the time and stayed in Louisiana.
While she pointed out that they did many things together and described Gumbel as an attentive boyfriend, she was the only one adjusting her life and schedule to accommodate him. That was only the first sign of a relationship destined to fail.
Bryant Gumbel eventually got a job with KNBC as a weekend sportscaster in California. At the time, Baranco was a Delta flight attendant and made the necessary arrangements to spend most of her time in California.
In December 1973, after dating for over a decade, they tied the knot in Baton Rouge. Their first child, Bradley, was born in 1979, and their second, Jillian, joined the family in 1983.
Baranco could have left, but her religious convictions and "high tolerance for emotional abuse" made her stay.
Given that Gumbel's popularity was on a steady rise, and they already had a family to raise, Baranco left her job and became a full-time stay-at-home mom.
When Gumbel became the first Black host of "Today" in the show's history in 1982, everything seemed to be on the right track. Unfortunately, Gumbel and Baranco's seemingly perfect marriage was a façade as she had been unhappy for years.
Shortly after the former couple exchanged marital vows, June Baranco found letters from women she eventually discovered were his mistresses. It is important to point out that he didn't try hard to hide his affairs from her.
He would deny everything every time she confronted him. At some point, his escapades were impossible to refuse, so he would promise to be a better husband. He never did.
Baranco could have left, but her religious convictions and "high tolerance" for emotional abuse made her stay. She also believed a divorce could ruin his career, so she always prayed to have a healthy relationship and loving family.
Bryant Gumbel and June Baranco's romance ended for good in June 1997 when he left her with little-to-no explanation to focus on his new girlfriend (and current wife), Hilary Quinlan. More on her later.
Gumbel's ex-wife couldn't bear the idea of having Quinlan sleeping in her bed.
THE MONEY ISSUES
Baranco once admitted that although Gumbel was making about $600,000 a month for co-hosting "The Early Show," she had financial troubles and didn't know if she could put food on the table. She added:
"You've got to understand. I love my husband very much. I still do now. He shot me through the heart! This man apparently doesn't care if I eat or not."
Baranco confessed that her allowance was so low ($250 a month) that she had to spend her savings to make ends meet. However, she acknowledged she spent about $11,000 on jewelry in the two years before she and Gumbel parted ways.
June Baranco after divorcing Bryant Gumbel on August 21, 2001 at the Westchester Supreme Court in New York | Photo: Getty Images
She admitted she felt "entitled" to buy something to make her feel good about herself after spending her 50th birthday and their 24th, 25th, and 26th anniversaries alone.
June Baranco was also devastated by the fact that the man she spent half of her life with could hurt her and their children so "deeply" and publicly. But the worst was yet to come as Gumbel requested equal access to the family's Westchester home.
Bryant Gumbel's ex-wife couldn't bear the idea of having Quinlan sleeping in her bed, using her bathtub, or stepping foot into the house that had her "soul."
Baranco pointed out that an art studio and the last memories of her children and late father were also in that house, and thinking that Gumbel could "desecrate" her home for spite was "appalling."
News of Gumbel and Baranco's separation seemingly affected the rankings of "The Early Show." Still, executive producer Steve Friedman admitted that most people could separate someone's personal life from their on-screen performance.
In August 2001, after a four-year legal battle, June Baranco and Bryant Gumbel's divorce became final. Although the details of their agreement were not shared, she supposedly received the Westchester estate and fifty percent of his estimated $20 million fortune.
Hilary Quinlan and Bryant Gumbel on May 29, 2019 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images
Coming back to Hilary Quinlan, who used to be a research assistant at Goldman Sachs, she married Gumbel in August 2002 at the Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Florida. It was a relatively private affair with just over 20 guests, including his then-best friend, Matt Lauer.
One of the most shocking aspects of the ceremony was that Gumbel's best man was Bradley, his son with Baranco. His daughter was also present. At the moment, Hilary Quinlan and Bryant Gumbel are still happily married, and it is unclear if June Baranco remarried.
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