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Mike Richards out as executive producer of 'Jeopardy!' and 'Wheel of Fortune'

The move comes less than two weeks after Richards stepped down as the new host of "Jeopardy!" following uproar over controversial comments he made in the past as the host of a podcast.
/ Source: TODAY

Mike Richards is out as the executive producer of "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune," less than two weeks after he stepped down as the new "Jeopardy!" host in the wake of controversy.

The staff was informed of Richards' departure on Tuesday in a memo sent out by Suzanne Prete, a Sony executive for both "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!"

Image: An undated handout photo of new "Jeopardy!" host Mike Richards
Mike Richards is no longer the executive producer of "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune," Sony announced Tuesday. CAROL KAELSON / Sony Pictures Entertainment

"I’m writing to let you know that Mike will no longer be serving as EP of Wheel and Jeopardy! effective immediately," Prete said in a note to the staffs of both shows Tuesday. "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."

"Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" are produced by Sony Pictures Television.

British television producer Michael Davies, the president and CEO of Sony unit Embassy Row, will help with the production on an interim basis, according to Prete. Davies has previously produced shows for ESPN, VH1 and CBS, as well as multiple shows for the Game Show Network.

"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," Prete wrote. "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."

Just five days ago, Richards' spokesperson told TODAY he was undergoing sensitivity training as he prepared for the latest season of "Jeopardy!", which begins on Sept. 13.

Richards, 46, announced to staff on Aug. 20 that he was stepping down as the new "Jeopardy!" host in the wake of controversies involving past lawsuits from his time as executive producer of "The Price is Right" and sexist comments he made on a podcast he hosted.

Richards was initially selected to be the permanent replacement for legendary host Alex Trebek, who died at 80 in November from pancreatic cancer.

"I want to apologize to each of you for the unwanted negative attention that has come to Jeopardy! over the last few weeks and for the confusion and delays this is now causing," he said in a memo to the show's staff. "I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence."

A story by The Ringer earlier this month detailed a series of crude and sexist comments made by Richards as one of the hosts “The Randumb Show” podcast in 2013-14.

That controversy followed allegations from two discrimination lawsuits during his time working at "The Price is Right" in which models alleged sexist behavior by Richards, who was not a defendant in one lawsuit and was dropped as a defendant in the other. He issued apologies following the details of the podcasts and the lawsuit allegations.

Actor Mayim Bialik, who previously served as a guest host, will temporarily fill in as the host of "Jeopardy!". She is currently scheduled to tape 15 episodes, Sony Pictures Television said in a statement last week.

Bialik and Richards were initially named the two new hosts of the show earlier this month, with Bialik slated to host prime-time and spinoff versions of the show. She will be followed by more guest hosts as the search for Trebek's permanent replacement continues.