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Sean Lowe Is the New Bachelor

The Bachelor - Sean Lowe Starring in New Season
Sean Lowe
Kevin Foley/ABC

updated 09/25/2012 AT 02:35 PM EDT

originally published 09/25/2012 AT 01:30 PM EDT

It's official: Sean Lowe is starring in the upcoming season of The Bachelor, ABC tells PEOPLE exclusively.

The Dallas businessman and entrepreneur won the hearts of fans across the country as he wooed North Carolina single mom Emily Maynard on The Bachelorette last season, landing in the final three. Maynard sent Lowe, the second runner-up, home as she'd fallen head over heels for Utah entrepreneur Jef Holm, accepting his marriage proposal.

"I was standing at that rose ceremony thinking I was going to marry her," Lowe told PEOPLE last July of the heartbreaking moment when Maynard sent him home.

Tuesday's announcement comes after months of speculation, with casting rumors ranging from former Bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky's ex-fiancé Roberto Martinez to Olympian Ryan Lochte.

On the possibility of being the next Bachelor, Lowe told PEOPLE at the time, "I'm an open-minded optimist, and I believe the process can work. If I found my wife, it would be worth it."

Production is already underway for the 17th season of the reality dating show, which will begin airing in January 2013. For more information on the contestants this season, visit
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