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How ‘Jeopardy!’ exec producer Mike Richards attempts damage control amid host negotiations

A man in a tuxedo holds an Emmy Award
Mike Richards holds the outstanding game show award for “The Price Is Right” at the 45th annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Pasadena.
(David Livingston/Getty Images)

“Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards confirmed he is under consideration to become the new host of the iconic game show while also doing damage control on reports on his past workplace behavior while running “The Price Is Right.”

Variety reported last week that Richards is in negotiations with the show’s production company, Sony Pictures Television, to replace the late Alex Trebek, following the use of guest hosts in the last seven months. Richards also did a fill-in stint and there was talk among insiders on the program that he was positioning himself for the full-time role.

Once Richards emerged as the leading candidate for the job, dissatisfied fans have claimed the public search was a façade. They also have cited discrimination suits by employees at “The Price Is Right,” the CBS daytime game show where Richards was an executive producer from 2008 to 2018.

Richards, who was named “Jeopardy!” executive producer in 2020, said in a memo to staff obtained by The Times that he is in talks to succeed Trebek, who died in November, but that no deal has been finalized.

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With ‘Jeopardy!’ executive producer Mike Richards in the lead to replace the game show’s late host Alex Trebek, lawsuits filed during his ‘Price Is Right’ years resurface.

“It is true that I was asked if I would consider hosting the show,” Richards said. “I was humbled and deeply honored. No final decisions have been made and discussions with me and other potential hosts are still ongoing. I know I have mentioned this to you all before, but the choice on this is not my decision and never has been.”

Richards also defended himself over his being named in discrimination suits filed by employees of the CBS game show “The Price Is Right,” which is produced by Fremantle.

Whether Richards survives the ongoing controversy is now an open question. In any event, it has tarnished what had been a celebration of Trebek, as the guest hosts — which included CNN’s Anderson Cooper, NBC’s “Today” cohost Savannah Guthrie, actress Mayim Bialik, actor LeVar Burton and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers — raised $3 million for charity through their appearances, which were largely seen as auditions.

Ken Jennings? Katie Couric? Mike Richards? Sony is casting a wide net for one of TV’s top jobs.

In 2010, model Shane Stirling sued producers of “The Price Is Right” for wrongful termination, alleging that she was improperly let go in 2008 after returning from pregnancy leave. The case was dismissed in 2012 after Stirling had trouble providing sufficient evidence to prove her claims and the judge decided that the statute of limitations had run out.

In 2010, model Brandi Cochran sued for wrongful termination, alleging that she got less work after telling producers she was pregnant with twins. She said she had not wanted to reveal her pregnancy because she was afraid she would be fired.

One of her twins died in miscarriage while the other was born three months premature and had health issues. Cochran said producers sent her mixed signals about whether she could return to work; then she found out she’d been fired.

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A jury initially awarded Cochran more than $8 million, but the judge tossed that out and ordered a new trial after deciding the jury had been improperly instructed. The parties reached an out-of-court settlement in 2016.

Finally, Lanisha Cole sued in 2011, alleging wrongful constructive termination, retaliation, sexual harassment and more. Cole said in her court filing that in 2009, six years into her stint on the show, Richards began treating her differently from the other models and refused to speak with her directly, causing her “great uncertainty” about her performance.

She linked this change to Richards starting a personal relationship with fellow “Price” model Amber Lancaster in early 2009, according to the lawsuit.

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Richards was dismissed as a defendant in the case, which also named Fremantle and co-executive producer Adam Sandler (not the film actor).

“These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show,” Richards said in the memo. “I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price Is Right.’ I know firsthand how special it is to be a parent. It is the most important thing in the world to me. I would not say anything to disrespect anyone’s pregnancy and have always supported my colleagues on their parenting journeys.”

Richards said the female cast members on “The Price Is Right” and “Let’s Make a Deal,” the other CBS program he oversaw, had seven children during his tenure on the programs.

“We embraced and celebrated each pregnancy and birth both in front of and behind the camera,” Richards said. “It was a joy to watch their families grow and highlight their happiness as part of the show.”


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