“You’re the only one who can save the day,” she pleaded with Stedman through tears recently, The ENQUIRER has learned.
Oprah’s OWN network has been on a steady decline since it was launched in January 2011. Financial analysts calculate the network could lose more than $140 million this year .
“Oprah’s realized that the shows she’s created are just not attracting interest – the fans want to see HER,” said a TV industry insider. “So she’s devised a secret plan to save OWN by getting married to Stedman on live TV.”
The 58-year-old media mogul shared her bombshell idea with Stedman, 61, her boyfriend of more than 25 years, a few weeks ago at her estate in California, a friend of Stedman’s revealed.
“It was a beautiful afternoon and they were walking hand-in-hand in her gardens,” disclosed the friend. “Oprah said, ‘There’s something I really need to ask you, Stedman.’
“She began to break down crying, saying she had made a mess of OWN. Then Oprah looked at Stedman and said, ‘You’ve always been my knight in shining armor. Will you finally marry me?’
“Stedman was absolutely floored and a little shell-shocked, but he didn’t hesitate and joked, ‘I thought I was the one who asked YOU – 20 years ago! What’s the big rush all of a sudden?’
“They both laughed and hugged, and he began wiping away the tears from her eyes. He said to her, ‘You know I’d do anything for you, Oprah. You’ve always been my girl.’”
The friend also revealed that over dinner that evening, Oprah stunned Stedman when she told him she was planning on giving him a $100-million “prenup” for becoming “Mr. Oprah Winfrey.”
“Stedman told her, ‘You’re way too generous,’ but then joked, ‘Is this why you’ve waited all these years – because you didn’t want to change your name to Oprah Graham?’”
Despite the light-hearted nature of the conversation, Stedman was well aware of the seriousness of the situation.
“He knows the wedding idea may be the only thing that can keep Oprah from losing her struggling network,” said the friend.
“Stedman plans to present Oprah with a very special engagement ring that was given to him by his late mother Mary before she died. It’s a small diamond, but he knows that the sentimental value will make her feel proud to wear it.”
The Tv insider added: “By marrying Stedman she can not only give viewers a TV event that will rival the royal weddings, but also months of programming covering everything from shopping for her gown and choosing the wedding site to selecting the food and band – everything down to engraving the invitations.
“There’ll be the bridal showers, even Stedman’s bachelor party will be televised on OWN!”
All of this will lead to the blowout live wedding ceremony in the fall.
“She can even hold contests for lucky viewers to attend the wedding,” continued the friend. “The ceremony itself and reception can run for weeks – and then she can take Stedman on an around-the-world honeymoon and televise all the exotic places they go.”