He’s No Longer Host. But Mike Richards Is Still Running ‘Jeopardy!’
Mr. Richards, an experienced game show host himself, was hired by Sony in 2019 from “The Price Is Right,” a tired franchise that Mr. Richards helped revive with Drew Carey as host. (Mr. Richards also auditioned for that hosting job.) He became executive producer of “Jeopardy!” last year, replacing Harry Friedman, an under-the-radar figure who exercised near-complete control of the program over a 25-year tenure.
“Jeopardy!” is one of the more profitable assets in Sony’s American entertainment portfolio, but picking Mr. Richards as the host came with an added financial benefit. As a relatively obscure figure, he would command a smaller salary than better-known contenders like LeVar Burton or Anderson Cooper. Mr. Richards’s compensation as host and executive producer was believed to be significantly lower than Mr. Trebek’s pay.
A segment of “Jeopardy!” viewers and aspiring contestants has expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to keep Mr. Richards as executive producer — some going so far as to re-evaluate their interest in the show because of his behavior.
“If it was enough to disqualify him from being host,” said Jon Porobil, a 35-year-old “Jeopardy!” fan from Pittsburgh, “why isn’t it enough to disqualify him from being executive producer?”
Matt Cappiello, 34, has taken the “Jeopardy!” entrance test multiple times, hoping to fulfill a lifelong dream of appearing on the show. But because of the controversy over Mr. Richards, he is now reconsidering.
“It tarnished the reputation of the show for me,” said Mr. Cappiello, a copywriter who watches the show nightly from a bar in Brooklyn. “‘Jeopardy!’ is supposed to be a celebration of knowledge, and it’s being run by this guy who’s the personification of ignorance.”
For all the criticism, Mr. Richards does have some supporters.
Gwendolyn Osborne, a model who worked on “The Price Is Right” for more than 12 years and considers herself a friend of Mr. Richards, said she was shocked to learn about his podcast comments, saying they did not align with his behavior as a boss. Contrary to the behavior alleged in the pregnancy-discrimination lawsuit, she recalled that Mr. Richards supported her when she returned to work from maternity leave, and then years later when she became pregnant again.
“I have reached out to him to tell him to continue to believe in his greatnesses, and that I do believe that everybody is worthy of redemption,” she said in an interview.