Raul Gonzalez, longtime Univision star, jumps to Telemundo

Spanish-language television personality Raul Gonzalez has joined Telemundo, where he plans to develop and host a weekly prime-time variety show that is scheduled to launch this fall.

Until late last month, Gonzalez, a native of Venezuela, was a fixture at rival Univision Communications. He spent the last 12 years as a co-host of the No. 1 network’s popular morning program “Despierta America.”

Gonzalez, 42, left the Univision network in February, saying he wanted to relax after more than a dozen years rising at 3:40 a.m. to prepare for Univision’s fast-paced live morning show.

“Telemundo offered me the most amazing opportunity,” Gonzalez said Monday during a phone interview.

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“It’s the circle of life, to quote ‘The Lion King,’ which is one of my all-time favorites,” he said. “Sometimes you feel that you need to move on, and move out of your comfort zone.”

Gonzalez and his representatives spent the last two weeks negotiating his new arrangement, which will include hosting TV specials beginning with the Billboard Latin Music Awards on Telemundo on April 24.

“I really feel good” about the move, Gonzalez said. “This is what I want to do, and I am excited by the possibility of growing.”

Gonzalez was beloved by longtime Univision viewers, some of whom identified with his struggles to control his weight. Fans also delighted in the antics of the colorful sketch-comedy characters he created. One was Dona Meche, a loud-mouthed Colombian housekeeper who wore a blue house dress and sensible white shoes. She would flirt campily with the celebrities who appeared on the show.

Gonzalez will not be transporting to Telemundo any of his Univision characters, including Dona Meche. Instead, he plans to come up with new personas for his family variety show.

“I want to close the cycle, but I will love those characters forever -- they are in my heart and in my luggage,” he said.

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Gonzalez, who started his entertainment career as a young boy in Caracas, has lived in Miami for 20 years. He also is launching a new Latin fusion restaurant in Miami with Telemundo’s morning show chef, James Tahhan.

Telemundo is owned by NBCUniversal.

On Sunday, another unit of NBCUniversal hired another prominent morning show star from a rival network: Josh Elliott of ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Elliott, who previously worked at ESPN as a sportscaster, joined “Good Morning America” in 2011. He is leaving ABC after the two sides could not agree to a new deal.

Elliott, 42, plans to join NBC Sports.


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Twitter: @MegJamesLAT