Pat Sajak, Longtime ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Host, Says He Will Retire

Vanna White, wearing a purple dress with a gold sash, standing next to Pat Sajak, wearing a gray pinstripe suit jacket and a red tie over a white shirt.

Pat Sajak, the host of “Wheel of Fortune,” with Vanna White, the co-host, in 2007. Mr. Sajak announced this week that he would retire after next season.Credit…Peter Kramer/Associated Press

Vanna White, wearing a purple dress with a gold sash, standing next to Pat Sajak, wearing a gray pinstripe suit jacket and a red tie over a white shirt.

Pat Sajak, who has been one of the most familiar faces on American television for over four decades as the host of “Wheel of Fortune,” announced on Monday that he would retire next year.

“The time has come,” Mr. Sajak, 76, said on Twitter. “I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last.”

“Wheel of Fortune” has been one of the most watched syndicated shows on American TV for much of Mr. Sajak’s run as host, and it was the most watched by the mid-1980s, when it drew more than 40 million viewers daily. The show became a pop culture phenomenon — known for its catchphrase “Can I buy a vowel?” — and spawned board games, toys, clothes and the spinoff show “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune.” Airing on ABC affiliates, “Wheel of Fortune” still draws over nine million viewers daily, second only to “Jeopardy!” for syndicated shows.

Mr. Sajak plans to continue as a consultant for three years after his final season.

It is unclear who will take over the hosting duties for Mr. Sajak, a three-time Emmy winner and the recipient of the Daytime Emmy lifetime achievement award.

Vanna White, Mr. Sajak’s longtime co-host, who joined the daytime version of the show in 1982, said on Twitter on Tuesday, “Who could have imagined we’d still be at it 41 seasons later?”

“I couldn’t be happier to have shared the stage with you for all these years with one more to come,” Ms. White wrote. She briefly stepped in for Mr. Sajak in 2019, when he needed emergency surgery to fix a blocked intestine.

While Ms. White filled in for Mr. Sajak, his daughter, Maggie Sajak, took over Ms. White’s puzzle-board duties. Ms. Sajak is a social correspondent for the show, posting digital content.

The show, created by Merv Griffin in 1975, features contestants who try to guess the letters in word puzzles to compete for cash. More than $250 million has been awarded since the show premiered, according to Sony.

Mr. Griffin, who died in 2007, chose Mr. Sajak to host the program in 1981, replacing Chuck Woolery, the show’s original host.

Before joining “Wheel of Fortune,” Mr. Sajak had been working in Los Angeles as a weatherman for KNBC, according to the show.

“The nice thing about working in local TV in L.A.,” Mr. Sajak once said, according to the show, “is that the decision makers are watching you every night.”

Mr. Sajak’s retirement will create a void in game show programming that draws few parallels other than the exit of Alex Trebek, the longtime host of “Jeopardy!,” who died at age 80 in 2020. Since Mr. Griffin revived that show in 1984, “Jeopardy!” has been paired with “Wheel of Fortune” in syndication.

Mr. Sajak was born in Chicago on Oct. 26, 1946. After graduating from high school, Mr. Sajak attended Columbia College Chicago, and he began working for a local radio station for its overnight programming from midnight to 6 a.m., according to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which awarded Mr. Sajak a star in 1994.

In 1968, Mr. Sajak joined the United States Army and was sent to Vietnam, where he worked on the Armed Forces Radio, according to “Wheel of Fortune.” When he returned stateside after his discharge from the Army, Mr. Sajak spent five years at a TV station in Nashville, where he worked as a weatherman and talk show host.

He then moved to Los Angeles, where he eventually worked for KNBC as a weatherman and on a Sunday talk show.

“It was a weird show,” Sajak said in an 1988 interview of his time at KNBC. “You’d be out on a trout farm interviewing people who had nothing to do with fish, or they’d send us to a Polish kielbasa festival to conduct a debate between opposing factions on gun control. It was good training, in retrospect. You learned how to tap dance.”

In 1989, Mr. Sajak tried a brief foray into late-night TV. “The Pat Sajak Show” took on Johnny Carson and David Letterman, but was canceled in 1990.

Mr. Sajak has drawn some criticism over the years from fans of the show who have said he is unfair at times to contestants. He also drew backlash last year when a picture circulated online of him with Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, who is known for her far-right stances.

Mr. Sajak has also had a number of cameos on several TV shows and movies, such as “Muppets Haunted Mansion” and “Airplane II: The Sequel.”

During his tenure as host, more than 10,000 people have auditioned for “Wheel of Fortune,” according to Sony Pictures Television, the studio that owns it.

Suzanne Prete, the studio’s executive vice president of game shows, said in a statement on Monday night that the studio was “incredibly grateful and proud to have had Pat as our host for all these years.”

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