Yes, he's lost his battle. Walking away with $40 million. Combined with what Leno and everyone else is being paid, this may cost NBC close to the $100 million that the U.S. government has promised in aid to Haiti.
There was the movie Night Shift some years ago about the last fight over the Tonight Show between David Letterman and Jay Leno. It presented Leno as a very nice guy who was oblivious to what his obnoxious manager was doing---she helped push Carson out of the way by spreading a false story that he was retiring. This prompted Carson to actually announce his retirement. In the movie, we see Leno on the phone with Johnny assuring him that he had nothing to do with the rumor.
I don't know to what degree the present situation hurts Leno's image.
NBC had a couple of reasons for doing what they did. Five years ago, they didn't want Conan O'Brien leaving NBC and going to another network for a better time slot. So five years ago, they told him they'd give him the Tonight Show now.
Then, when the five years was up and it was time for Conan to get The Tonight Show, they didn't want Leno going to another network since he'd take his audience with him and crush Conan in the ratings. So they moved him to 10 p.m.
Leno did badly at 10 p.m., as they probably expected. The Tonight Show never had a large audience compared to prime time programs. But now he gave Conan a bad lead-in, so the new Tonight Show did even worse than expected.
So, Conan is finished. Too bad. At least he collected a substantial consolation prize.
Conan tap dancing
I saw interviews with Conan early on when he started hosting Late Night. He did what most of these people do. Tried to present his success as a fulfillment of destiny. He talked about how he had demanded tap dancing lessons as a child. He wanted to be an all-around entertainer even then.
Seems to be a common thing. Bernardo Bertolucci claimed that, as a child, when he played with other children, he would order them around, acting like a movie director even then.
Mike Lookinland (TV's Bobby Brady) was more modest in his claims to destiny and his actual achievement. He works in Hollywood as an assistant camera operator. He focuses the camera. And he pointed to the home movie camera Robert Reed gave him for Christmas as the thing that started it all.
Successful people and luck
Here's what I think.
If a highly successful person says he doesn't believe in luck, it means he got to where he is through sheer luck.
If a highly successful person modestly says that he was just lucky, then he clawed his way to top by committing some monstrous act he hopes nobody finds out about.