Inside Anne Robinson’s life – near-fatal booze battle, £20m split and Countdown

Anne Robinson is a journalist and TV presenter who is best known for being the sharp-tongued host of game show the Weakest Link.

The 76-year-old earned the nickname the ‘Queen of Mean’ for her fearsome television persona and the barbed comments she’d make about the contestants on the show.

The presenter has been very candid about her long-running battle with booze and struggles with TV success.

However, Anne managed to turn her life around after going teetotal and made a comeback.

She returned to our screens as the new host of Countdown, taking over from Nick Hewer.

We take a look back on the icy broadcaster’s life and career.

Early life

Anne was born in 1944 in Lancashire to a school teacher and businesswoman from Northern Ireland.

Her childhood was spent helping out with the family’s agricultural enterprises and working jobs at a law firm.

Anne soon began her journalistic career at the Daily Mail, where she was the first female trainee reporter.

She was known for her hard-hitting scoops, but unfortunately also her drinking.

During her time there she fell in love with her boss, Charlie Wilson, and they married in 1968.

That same year, Anne had an abortion which she described as leaving a “black doom” handing over her life.

She said: "What I remember is unexpectedly the most terrible black doom came over me and it lasted for months. I was ashamed of what I’d done and I felt so depressed."

In 1970 the couple welcomed their first daughter, Emma, and Anne began working at The Sunday Times and then The Mirror where she had a column entitled Wednesday Witch.

After getting the scoop on Princess Diana's eating disorder, she was sacked due to pressure from Buckingham palace, and was encouraged by the Mirror's editor to go into television.

Booze battle

According to The Times, she would wake up on a Sunday morning and drink gin while she looked after Emma at home.

"By my mid-30s, I got to the point where I probably had about six weeks to live," she told the Mail.

"I suffered from a really bad drink problem and my weight dropped down to about six stone.”

Her drinking affected her marriage deeply, and her and Charlie soon filed for divorce before entering a fierce custody battle over Emma.

Emma was taken out of her custody and lived with father Charles Wilson when she was little after Anne’s colleagues testified against her.

Anne has since admitted to being and “unfit mother” to Emma due to her alcoholism.

She finally kicked the bottle in 1978 and joined Alcoholics Anonymous.

During the custody battle, she had begun to date John Penrose, a fellow reporter, whom she married in 1980.

TV work

She started out as panellist on Question Time in the 1980s and then presented TV review show Points of View.

In 1993 she became the writer and presenter of consumer affairs show Watchdog, which remains popular to this day.

But what made her a household name was when she began presenting quiz show The Weakest Link in 2000.

The show was such a hit that it spawned 70 equivalent versions in other countries, and was even parodied in a Doctor Who episode.

Anne was famous for making harsh jibes about the contestants and her catchphrase soon became: “You are the weakest link, goodbye.”

In a recent interview for the Daily Mail, Anne said she’d be “cancelled” if The Weakest Link was aired today.

She said: "I wasn’t exactly drowning kittens but I would never get away with all that now – times have changed so much that I don’t think we could even make The Weakest Link today.

"I don’t think half the things I said then I could say now, like 'Are you really that stupid?' or 'Why are you so fat?’”

£20 million divorce

However, as Anne’s career in television blossomed, her second marriage began to crumble.

"No mother puts her son on her knee and teaches him what to do when he grows up and marries someone who earns more money and might even be smarter than him," she told the Daily Mail.

"There are few happy husbands under those circumstances, and I am astonished that Penrose and I got as far as we did.”

Anne and John divorced in 2008 after 28 years together, forcing her to fork out £20 million.

She later admitted that the divorced took its toll, telling the Mail: "It was like having a car crash every day once we parted.

"I was taken aback, since I'd decided it was what I wanted. I didn't expect it to be quite so emotional, so that really took me by surprise. You delude yourself.

"I think we were both very sad. We'd have to have hearts of stone not to. You just feel quite low. You feel quite joyless for a bit for no good reason.”

She remains on good terms with both of her exes, telling the Mail: “Why not? They are both nice people.”

Life today

This summer Anne made her debut as the new host of Countdown, becoming the first female host in the show’s 39 years.

She has claimed to be worth more than £50 million and her career shows no signs of slowing down.

Anne told the Guardian: “I’m the oldest woman on TV who’s not judging cakes.”

She spent the majority of lockdown at her Cotswolds home with Emma, Emma’s husband Liam Kan, and their sons, Hudson, 11, and Parker, 10 – and jokes she has an 'I hate my husband' suite in the kitchen.

Anne has been sober for the past 42 years, saying: “I think it’s harder not to eat chocolate.

“I nearly killed myself. At my worst, I weighed less than six stone. The doctor gave me two months to live.

“But if you can stop drinking when you’ve got a problem, you can eventually regain the level of talent you had and get going again.

“I’m grateful that happened to me. It gave me a new lease of life.”

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