"In the end, it had nothing to do with money," Elliott, 42, told PEOPLE in an exclusive statement, speaking for the first time since announcing he is exiting the No. 1 morning show for a job at NBC Sports.
Though the popular news anchor declined to comment on specific figures – a source says ABC offered him $5 million but he asked for $10 million, while another source says Elliott will be paid about $4 million a year by NBC – he said: "There were two great offers on the table, and it certainly was a difficult choice to make. I feel I made the best one."
"It wasn't at all about anyone or anything at ABC," Elliott said, shooting down reports to the contrary. "It was about what lies ahead for me at NBC Sports. I have always wanted to be part of an Olympics broadcast, and the opportunity to cover sports that captivate America was too good to pass up."
Elliott worked at ESPN before joining GMA in 2011. At NBC Sports, he is expected to play a variety of roles, including covering the Olympics, the NFL and the Triple Crown, starting with the Kentucky Derby in May.
His departure follows that of popular weather anchor Sam Champion, who left in December for The Weather Channel. The move leaves GMA without two key members of the team that, starting in April 2012, began beating the Today show in the ratings for the first time in 16 years.
Ben Sherwood, co-president of Disney/ABC Television Group, announced Elliott's departure and Amy Robach's promotion to GMA's news anchor in a memo to the news division.
Noting that Elliott had informed ABC of his decision on Sunday, Sherwood said, "As many of you know, we have been negotiating with Josh these past several months. In good faith, we worked hard to close a significant gap between our generous offer and his expectations. In the end, Josh felt he deserved a different deal and so he chose a new path."