Mike Richards is out as ‘Jeopardy!’ executive producer, Sony says

Mike Richards accepts the award for Outstanding Game Show for Jeopardy! during the 48th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards broadcast on June 25, 2021.

Daytime Emmy Awards 2021 | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Mike Richards will no longer be executive producer of the “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” game show franchises, Sony said Tuesday.

Michael Davies from Embassy Row, who was executive producer of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” will join the production on an interim basis, Sony said in a memo released to media. Also, Suzanne Prete, executive vice president of business and strategy for the two shows, will be more involved in its day-to-day operations.

The news comes just over a week after Richards was ousted as incoming host of Sony’s long-running trivia show because of previous offensive comments he made about women, Jews and people with mental disabilities. His comments made during a podcast he hosted from 2013 to 2014 recently resurfaced.

Richards, 46, apologized for the “unwanted negative attention” that he brought to “Jeopardy!” when he announced his decision to step down as host.

“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,” Prete said in the memo. “That clearly has not happened.”

Richards came under scrutiny last month when rumors circulated that he would be tapped to replace the late Alex Trebek.

Among the scandalous reports was a discrimination lawsuit filed against CBS and FremantleMedia while Richards was an executive producer of “The Price is Right.” The suit claimed that model Brandi Cochran was not invited back to the show after she took time off for her pregnancy. The case was ultimately settled, but Richards faced additional pregnancy discrimination claims beyond Cochran’s, which were not successful.

Additionally, in the wake of the announcement that he would be the new “Jeopardy!” host, many called into question Richards’ qualifications, as well as his influence over the process in selecting Trebek’s replacement.

The Ringer website reported that Richards, as the show’s EP, had control over almost every aspect of the most recent season of “Jeopardy!,” including giving direction to guest hosts, influencing the promotion of episodes of the show and picking which shows were sent to test groups for evaluation.

Mayim Bialik, who in early August had been named the prime-time host for “Jeopardy!” specials, will be the show’s first daytime guest host following Richards’ departure. Bialik, a star of “The Big Bang Theory” and “Blossom,” will host three weeks of the show’s programming, likely kicking off another round of guest hosts.

After Trebek died in November, “Jeopardy!” cycled through a number of guest hosts, a programming decision that many assumed would act as an audition process for a replacement host.

These guest hosts included Ken Jennings, an author with the longest winning streak in “Jeopardy!” history; journalist Katie Couric, professional football star Aaron Rodgers, news anchor Anderson Cooper, CNBC financial journalist David Faber and actor LeVar Burton.

In total, 16 guest hosts were brought on to finish out the remainder of the season. Richards was slated to debut as the new host for the show’s 38th season, which is still set to air Sept. 13.

“Jeopardy!” was the most-watched show in syndication this season, averaging 8.7 million viewers, according to data from Nielson.

Read the full memo from Suzanne Prete:

Dear Team,
 
I’m writing to let you know that Mike will no longer be serving as EP of Wheel and Jeopardy! effective immediately. 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. That clearly has not happened.
 
Michael Davies from Embassy Row has agreed to help with production on an interim basis until further notice. Michael and I will work together with all of you in the weeks ahead to ensure that production remains on schedule and we do not miss a beat as we head into the new season.
 
I know this has been a challenging time for the entire team, and I want to thank you all for your cooperation and professionalism over these last few weeks. As Ravi mentioned last week, I will be more involved in the day-to-day on our shows moving forward and I am looking forward to working closely with all of you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything. 
 
Sincerely,
Suzanne