When Jonathan Ross signed an £18m contract with the BBC in 2006 he became the highest paid presenter in the Corporation's history.

Today he was suspended by the BBC's director general pending an investigation into lewd calls to the actor Andrew Sachs.

Ross, who was suspended with fellow comic Russell Brand following a series of late night calls to the former Fawlty Towers actor, will be absent from Radio 2 and BBC 1.

The move came after more than 18,000 complaints.

Although Ross is one of Britain's most popular presenters his contract has caused friction both within and without the corporation.

At the time BBC bosses said they were forced to offer the presenter such a huge deal because both ITV and Channel 4 had tabled £15m deals.

But when Jonathan Ross comes to renegotiate his deal next year he will find the tables have turned dramatically.

A sudden downturn in advertising revenue means the commercial channels can no longer afford to offer such lucrative deals.

And the BBC is unlikely to match the £15m offer in 2006.

Carol Vorderman, the former co-presenter of Channel 4's Countdown, decided to quit rather than accept the terms of her new contract which represented a 90 per cent pay cut.

Ross grew up in a showbiz family. He is the son of actress and radio presenter Martha Ross as well as the brother of journalist and TV editor Paul Ross.

He grew up in Leytonstone and attended Southampton College of Art.

He is married to journalist Jane Goldman, who met him while conducting an interview for the Daily Star.

He has three children, Betty, Harvey Kirby -named after the comic book artist Jack Kirby - and Honey.

His television career began on Channel 4, working as a researcher on the show Loose Talk before landing his own programme, The Last resort With Jonathan Ross, which was modelled on the US success, Late Night With David Letterman.

A year later he produced a documentary series about cult films and personalities, The Incredibly Strange Film Show.

In 1989 he made a mainstream breakthrough co-presenting BBC Children In Need.

He was a surprise choice to replace Barry Norman in 1999 when veteran film critic Norman left to join Sky.

His radio show began the same year and his popular TV chatshow started its initial run in 2001.

This is not the first time Jonathan Ross has courted controversy.

Last year he joked at the British Comedy Awards that his salary made him worth "1,000 BBC journalists" -- a remark that came shortly after the Corporation announced 2,000 redundancies among its news staff.

In 2006 he was criticised for making jokes about Heather Mills, including calling her a "f***ing liar".

Now he finds himself at the eye of the storm once again. Ofcom, the media regulator, has already begun an investigation and Ross awaits the results of a BBC inquiry.