The B has left the building. Bethenny Frankel announced she would not return to The Real Housewives of New York City. Season 12 of the series was expected to begin filming this summer.
An original cast member on the series, Bethenny originally left the show after season three and starred in her own spinoff. Following the success of her business, she got her own talk show. As that wrapped up, she made her way back to RHONY and stayed from seasons seven through 11. The Skinnygirl mogul announced her exit in a statement to Variety on Wednesday, Aug. 21. She then took to Instagram to pen a personal note to her followers.
"I am so grateful to you for sticking with me through everything. You started this journey with me in my tiny apartment in my late 30s, wondering what would happen to me. I was broke, single, had no family and no idea what the future held," she wrote. "I had big dreams and I never stopped, but I honestly didn't know if I would ever get here."
So, what happened? What's next for the fan-favorite Bravo reality series?
"Bethenny had been on the fence about returning to the show for a few months. She didn't share about it that much," a source told E! News. "Her motivation for leaving was both personal and professional."
As noted in her exit statement, Bethenny has a new TV production deal with Mark Burnett. The two are reportedly working on a new business-themed show for women. Developing these projects and sticking with cameras on her for RHONY wasn't feasible, our source said.
"Bethenny had been considering leaving for a few months. She didn't discuss with many people and ultimately made a final, quick decision. She felt it was time to leave the franchise to focus more on her passion projects, including philanthropy and her production deal with Mark Burnett," another source told E! News. "Also, her daughter is her priority. She has learned so much during her time on the show and wants to empower women and continue to help change the tone of conversations."
Now with her sights set on a new TV future, Bethenny has been in Los Angeles "taking meetings with a number of networks regarding her female-driven shows and is excited at the prospects on the table," our source said.
The cast of RHONY, which included Ramona Singer, Dorinda Medley, Luann de Lesseps, Tinsley Mortimer and Sonja Morgan in season 11, is said to have not had any warning about Bethenny's exit and were shocked to hear the news. A source told E! News some of the Big Apple women are welcoming the change as they've butted heads with the exiting star in the past, now they feel the season might have a lighter tone without conflict created by any longstanding tension. However, others are disappointed about her exit.
"Happy for you sad for the group," Dorinda posted on Bethenny's Instagram, punctuating the statement with an "x."
"Its [sic] always sad to see a member of the [Housewives] family go, especially a fellow OG," Luann posted on Instagram. "@bethennyfrankel and I have certainly had our ups and downs, I choose to remember the ups. Wishing her nothing but the best in her next chapter."
"I'm only disappointed that Bethenny did not inform her costars that she's not coming back to the show," Ramona told People. "I really wish her well, though. The show's a machine and it will continue on. We're all just a cog in the wheel. No one is irreplaceable," she added.
Where does The Real Housewives of New York City go from here? When Bethenny first left after season three, Bravo kept the cast at the time—Jill Zarin, Alex McCord, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, Luann de Lesseps, Sonja Morgan and Ramona Singer—in tact and added Cindy Barshop. Cindy only lasted one season. For season five, the network cut the cast in half and Kelly, Alex, Jill and Cindy left. Luann, Ramona and Sonja were joined by Aviva Drescher, Heather Thomson and Carole Radziwill. Kristen Taekman came in season six and left after season seven. Dorinda joined in season seven, the same time Bethenny returned, and Tinsley came in during season nine.
Following Carole's exit after season 10, Bravo didn't add a series regular cast member. Luann's pal Barbara Kavovit appeared in a "friend of" capacity during season 11. Now down to five regulars—should Ramona, Sonja, Luann, Dorinda and Tinsley all return—the series will likely add a new woman, or bring back a veteran, to pick up a golden apple. E! News has heard there could be a newcomer to the series, Leah McSweeney, who reportedly has ties to Tinsley. Bravo doesn't comment on casting, but sources indicate she's one to watch.
Whoever is brought in, there will be quite the void to fill now that Bethenny's out.
No premiere date for The Real Housewives of New York City season 12 has been announced.
(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)