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Pat Sajak to retire from record TV stint as ‘Wheel of Fortune’ host

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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pat Sajak, the enduring master of ceremonies for “Wheel of Fortune,” plans to retire at the end of his upcoming record 41st year hosting one of American television’s longest-running game shows, he said on Monday.

Sajak, 76, made the announcement on Twitter, but gave no precise reason for opting to call it quits next year, saying only “the time has come.”

“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,” he wrote.

The show will continue its run for at least three more seasons after his departure, with Sajak staying on to serve as a consultant during that period, according to Suzanne Prete, head of the game show division at Sony Pictures Television, the program’s production company.

“We’re thrilled to have him remaining close to the Wheel of Fortune family!” she said.

No mention was made about the future of Vanna White, the glamorous, ever-smiling co-host, who has made a career of rotating the letters on the show’s puzzle board for more than 40 years.

She and Sajak celebrated their 7,000th episode on the show together in May of 2019, and White briefly stepped in to substitute as host for Sajak several months later when he underwent emergency intestinal surgery.

Sajak has hosted the syndicated evening edition of “Wheel of Fortune” since its debut in September 1983, but his connection with the game show, created by the late TV entertainer-producer Merv Griffin, goes back further.

“Wheel of Fortune” originally aired as an NBC network program on daytime television in 1975, with Chuck Woolery as host. Sajak replaced him in 1981 and stayed on the daytime show until 1989, while also presiding over the syndicated nighttime version starting in 1983.

He ranks as the longest-serving host of any U.S. TV game show, surpassing the 35 years Bob Barker presided over “The Price is Right” on CBS or 37 years Alex Trebek starred on “Jeopardy!”

While “The Price is Right” holds the record as the longest continuously running game show on American television, “Wheel of Fortune” has the longest unbroken run of any syndicated U.S. game show.

Another Merv Griffin creation, “Jeopardy!,” dates back to 1964 but saw a gap of several years between various syndicated and network versions of that program over the years.

Sajak left the NBC evening edition of “Wheel” when his own short-lived late-night talk show premiered on CBS. Meanwhile, Sajak was replaced on NBC’s “Wheel” by Rolf Benirschke, who was in turn succeeded by Bob Goen when the network program moved to CBS, then briefly back to NBC.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Robert Birsel)

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