Credit: Jeffrey Mayer/

A tearful Oprah Winfrey announced the end of her talk show in 2011 to her studio audience in Chicago Friday morning. "After much prayer and months of careful thought, I have decided that next season," her 25th, "will be the last season of the Oprah Winfrey Show."

The 55 year-old talk show host recalls that she was "beyond excited" when the show began nationally in September 1986. Yet, "I never would have imagined the yellow brick road of blessings" that the blockbuster show has brought her. A multibillionaire today, her holdings include a magazine and an upcoming cable network.

Nearly breaking down, she says, "You have enriched my life beyond all measure."

"You have all invited me into your lives," she continues. "We've grown together. I want you all to know that my relationship with you is one that I hold very dear. Your trust in me, your sharing your precious time with me . . . has brought me the greatest joy that I have ever known."

Eager to dispel speculation, Winfrey explains why she's made this momentous decision now:

"25 years feels right in my bones and my spirit. It's the perfect number, the exact right time."

Promising a final season that will "knock your socks off," she concludes, "the countdown to the end of the Oprah Winfrey Show starts now. I am going to soak up every beautiful, joyful moment with you."