Mike Richards Is Out as ‘Jeopardy!’ Executive Producer
Mike Richards Is Out as ‘Jeopardy!’ Executive Producer

Three weeks after naming him as Alex Trebek’s replacement to host the show, Sony cited “disruption and internal difficulties” in its announcement that he will leave the program entirely. Mike Richards, whose tenure as the executive producer of “Jeopardy!” has come to an end. Mike Richards, whose tenure as the executive producer of “Jeopardy!” has come to an end.Credit…Carol Kaelson, via Reuters By Michael M. Grynbaum, Nicole Sperling and Julia Jacobs Aug. 31, 2021 Sony said on Tuesday that Mike Richards would immediately exit his job as the executive producer of “Jeopardy!,” completing a stunning downfall for a game-show impresario who just three weeks ago had secured one of the most coveted jobs in television as the replacement for the longtime host Alex Trebek. “We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at ‘Jeopardy!’ it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks,” a Sony executive, Suzanne Prete, wrote in a memo to staff on Tuesday. “That clearly has not happened.” Mr. Richards is also set to leave his role as executive producer of “Wheel of Fortune.” He will be temporarily replaced at both programs by Michael Davies, a veteran game-show producer who developed the original American version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Sony had named Mr. Richards as the permanent host of “Jeopardy!” on Aug. 11, calling him a “unique talent.” But Mr. Richards quit the hosting job on Aug. 20, days after a report by The Ringer revealed offensive and sexist comments he had made on a podcast several years ago, the latest in a series of scandals that tarred his brief tenure. Top executives at Sony had initially signaled support for Mr. Richards to stay on as executive producer even after he stepped down as host. But they eventually came to believe his continued presence would be untenable, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who requested anonymity to describe sensitive internal discussions. Crew members confronted Mr. Richards on Aug. 19 in an emotional meeting, where they expressed dismay at his past behavior and said it had imperiled the show’s reputation. An all-hands call last week that included Mr. Richards left some staff members demoralized. Some “Jeopardy!” fans also said they were confused as to why Mr. Richards was being allowed to stay on behind the scenes. A final decision was made over the weekend, the person said. Mr. Richards is in contact with the powerful Hollywood lawyer Bryan Freedman about negotiating his exit from Sony, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Mr. Freedman also represented the former NBC News anchor Megyn Kelly and Chris Harrison, the former host of “The Bachelor,” after their own abrupt ousters. Mr. Richards taped one week’s worth of “Jeopardy!” episodes in a single day of filming before Sony announced that he had ceded the hosting job. (Those episodes are still set to air the week of Sept. 13.) The sitcom star Mayim Bialik is expected to remain as the host of “Jeopardy!” prime-time specials, but Sony has said it would resume the search for a replacement for Mr. Trebek’s weeknight slot. Ms. Bialik will be the first guest host of the regular program in place of Mr. Richards. The competition to replace Mr. Trebek, who died in 2020 after serving as the show’s host for 37 years, captivated “Jeopardy!” fans and featured a parade of potential successors including the former contestant Ken Jennings and the actor LeVar Burton. But it was Mr. Richards who won out, despite having virtually no name recognition among viewers and the fact that, as the show’s executive producer, he had overseen elements of the replacement process. Old lawsuits also resurfaced from Mr. Richards’s last job running “The Price Is Right” that included accusations of sexist behavior.

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