Pat Sajak, who has hosted the hit game show Wheel of Fortune since Ronald Reagan was president, will retire next year.
“Well, the time has come,” Sajak said Monday in a statement to Bloomberg News. “I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last. It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all.”
Wheel of Fortune is a fixture on local TV stations across the country, routinely ranking as one of the most-watched shows outside of prime time. In the week of May 28, the show attracted 7.72 million viewers, second only to Jeopardy! among shows that air in syndication.
Sajak, 76, was hired as host in 1981 by show creator Merv Griffin. The program’s current owner, Sony Group Corp., has fielded inquiries from candidates seeking to replace him but hasn’t settled on one.
“Pat has entertained millions of viewers across America for 40 amazing years,” Suzanne Prete, executive vice president for game shows at Sony Pictures Television, said in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful and proud to have had Pat as our host for all these years and we look forward to celebrating his outstanding career throughout the upcoming season.”
The studio declined to comment on plans for longtime co-host Vanna White, who has been turning the letters for contestants since 1982. Sajak has agreed to serve as a consultant on the show for three years following his last year of hosting, Sony said.
Wheel of Fortune, a variation of hangman where contestants try to guess a term or phrase after spinning a wheel that determines their prize money, was created by Griffin in 1975. It’s spawned spinoffs, such as Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, and merchandise, including one of the most popular slot machines in history.
Sony wants to manage the transition better than it did for Jeopardy!, another popular game show.
After death of longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek in 2020, the studio replaced him with the show’s producer Mike Richards. He stepped down just a short time later after the website the Ringer reported on sexist comments he made on a podcast years earlier.
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