Matt Le Blanc to step down as BBC 'Top Gear' host

Cast member Matt LeBlanc speaks at a panel for the television series "Man with a Plan" during the TCA CBS Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California U.S., August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

LONDON (Reuters) - Matt LeBlanc, former star of 1990s U.S. hit comedy “Friends”, said on Thursday he will step down as co-host of the BBC motoring program “Top Gear” after the next series.

The American actor, who achieved global fame as Joey Tribbiani in the NBC sitcom, was the first non-British host of the show when he started in 2016.

The BBC said Le Blanc, 50, was finding the travel demands of the show too taxing.

“The time commitment and extensive travel ... takes me away from my family and friends more than I’m comfortable with,” LeBlanc said in a statement.

“It’s unfortunate, but for these reasons I will not be continuing my involvement with the show. I will forever be a Top Gear fan and I wish the team continued success. Thanks for a great drive.”

Top Gear, one of the BBC’s most successful and profitable shows, was taken off air in 2015 after its then star Jeremy Clarkson physically attacked a member of production staff.

Clarkson and his co-stars Richard Hammond and James May now present a car show for Amazon, “The Grand Tour.”

Reporting by Stephen Addison; editing by Costas Pitas