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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Pat Sajak, longtime ‘Wheel of Fortune’ host, says he will retire

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.

By Jesús Jiménez

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 earlier this week that he will retire next year.

“The time has come,” 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 most of Sajak’s run as host. It 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.”

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

Sajak agreed to continue as a consultant for three years after his final season, Prete said.

It was unclear who would take over the hosting duties after Sajak retires.

Vanna White, Sajak’s longtime co-host, did not post any comment on social media Monday night. She briefly stepped in for Sajak in 2019, when he needed an emergency surgery to fix a blocked intestine.

While White filled in for Sajak, his daughter, Maggie Sajak, took over White’s puzzleboard duties. Maggie 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, of which more than $250 million had been awarded since it premiered, according to Sony.

Griffin, who died in 2007, choose Sajak to host the program in 1981, succeeding Chuck Woolery, the show’s original host.

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

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

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!,” which paired with “Wheel” in syndication since Griffin revived it in 1984. Trebek died at age 80 in 2021.

Sajak was born in Chicago on Oct. 26, 1946. After graduating from high school, he 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 Sajak a star in 1994.

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

He then moved to Los Angeles, where he eventually worked for KNBC, not only as a weather forecaster, but also 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, Sajak attempted a brief foray into late-night TV. “The Pat Sajak Show” took on Johnny Carson and David Letterman but was canceled in 1990.

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.

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