Who is Mike Richards is a question on many ‘Jeopardy!’ fans’ minds, after news broke on Thursday that he is in ‘deep negotiations’ to become the new game show host, seemingly beating out former contestant Ken Jennings and fan-favorite LeVar Burton for the role.
Richards, 46, has served as the show’s executive producer for since 2020, and was among the show’s rotating cast of guest hosts after longtime ‘Jeopardy!’ king Alex Trebek died in November after a long-fought battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.
According to Variety, which broke the news that Richards’ is the front-runner for the hosting gig, Sony Pictures Television executives were impressed by his ‘command of the fast-paced game and easy on-air manner’ when he guest hosted in late February.
Discussions with other guest hosts were still ongoing, an unnamed source familiar with the negotiations reportedly told the outlet, but Richards is widely considered to be the front-runner.
Mike Richards, who works as the executive producer of Jeopardy!, is reportedly in talks to become the show’s next host
That would mean he beat out fan-favorite LeVar Burton and former contestant Ken Jennings for the role
Fans of the show, though, do not seem to approve of the executives’ choice, with many writing on Twitter that the role should have gone to former ‘Reading Rainbow’ host LeVar Burton instead.
One person replied to the news saying Jeopardy fans have been saying for months they wanted Burton to be the new host, as executives said they would try several different guest hosts and see which one the audience responded to, but decided to go with Richards instead.
Others brought up the fact that two women previously named Richards in harassment lawsuits, claiming he and his production company treated them poorly when they were working as models on The Price is Right.
Brandi Cochran sued his company, FremantleMedia North America and The Price is Right Productions in 2010 over claims producers sidelined and harassed her after she became pregnant.
Richards was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but Cochran alleged in it that he stopped talking to her as much after she became pregnant and implied that she would have been fired had the pregnancy not been a secret.
She claimed she was pressured to announce her pregnancy on air, and when she said she was carrying twins, she was given less work and was subjected to jokes about her weight gain from her co-workers.
Cochran revealed in the lawsuit that one of her twins died in a miscarriage, while the other was born three months premature.
She claimed she was still stressed about work after giving birth and felt pressured to lose the weight so she could return to her job, only to discover that she had been deleted from the show’s website.
Cochran was initially awarded more than $8 million in compensatory and punitive damages, which was later overturned, as she settled with the company.
Lanishia Cole, meanwhile, sued Richards and fellow producer Adam Sandler – not the actor – as well as FremantleMedia North America in 2011, for wrongful termination and sexual harassment.
She alleged that the producers berated her in front of her peers, and claimed Richards began ignoring her and favoring another model he was in a relationship with in 2009.
Cole claimed Richards hindered her modeling career by creating policies ‘which never before existed,’ according to the Los Angeles Times.
‘This case is about senior-level men in the entertainment industry exploiting power and control over women by bullying and harassing female talent,’ Cole told the Times.
The lawsuit was settled in 2013, and Richards, who dismissed any wrongdoing, was dismissed as a defendant before the settlement was reached.
‘When you google this guy and the first thing coming up is the sexual harassment lawsuit a Black woman filed against him on another show,’ Denny the Villain tweeted, with another writing: ‘I remembered when Mike Richards got sued for sexual harassment. Now he gets to host Jeopardy. #NoWords’
Longtime host Alex Trebek died at the age of 80 in November after a long-fought battle with pancreatic cancer
Jennings, right, took a job as a consulting producer on the show before Trebek’s death
Burton, 64, was considered a fan-favorite guest host, while many assumed former contestant Ken Jennings, 47, would be take the helm, since he had been promoted to a consulting producer for the series before Trebek’s passing.
Other guest hosts included ‘Big Bang Theory’ star Mayim Bialik, journalist Robin Roberts and NFL quarterback Aaron Rogers.
Burton was the last guest host of the show before it went on break for the summer, after a Change.org petition garnered thousands of signatures for Burton to be the next guest host.
‘Between hosting 21 seasons of the educational Reading Rainbow, playing the brainiac engineer Geordi La Gorge on Star Trek: The Next Generation and filling the roll of Kunta Kinte in the ever important miniseries Roots, LeVar Burton has inspired and shaped the minds of several generations of trivia-loving nerds,’ it reads.
After his stint hosting, Burton was ranked the third favorite in an online poll of the best guest hosts, according to the New York Post, garnering 10 percent of the 1,003 votes cast.
Jennings, who made history as the show’s highest-winning contestant with $2.52 million in regular gameplay winnings, came in first in the poll, winning more than 20 percent of the vote.
Richards, meanwhile, came in second, gaining 14 percent of the nominations.
LeVar Burton took to Twitter following the news to graciously concede
Many posted on Twitter that Burton should have been named the new host, with several joking that the executive producer named himself the host
Richards joined the ‘Jeopardy!’ team last year as an executive producer.
He is a native of Burbanks, California, and while still a student at Pepperdine University in Miami, he wrote, produced and hosted a weekly late night comedy talk show called ‘The Randumb Show,’ which won multiple college broadcasting awards.
In 2018, he wrote on Instagram, ‘Twenty-one years ago (almost to the day) I started at this historic stage with pictures of my TV heroes on it and I interviewed to be on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
‘I got the internship, which turned into a production assistant job, which led to where am now.
‘My dream was to work anywhere in TV … my stated goal was to executive produce and host a show I created.
‘I just shot a pilot presentation I co-created next door to this stage. I got to host it and was the executive producer.
‘I was so hungry to be part of all of this back then, and the more I get to do it, the hungrier I get,’ he wrote. ‘I mean that literally and figuratively, as I am ready for lunch in this picture.’
In 2007, Richards was considered for host of The Price is Right, which ultimately went to Drew Carey, but he joined the show as a co-executive producer.
He also had a production role in Let’s Make a Deal, and hosted the Ashton Kutcher-produced reality show ‘Beauty and the Geek’ as well as the Reelz Channel entertainment news outlet ‘Dailies.’
In 2012, he hosted a reboot of ‘The $100,000 Pyramid,’ simply called ‘The Pyramid’ on the Game Show Network, and hosted ‘Divided’ on the channel from 2016 to 2017 as well.
More recently, Richards executive produced the celebrity edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire with host Jimmy Kimmel, and in 2020 he succeeded Harry Friedman as the executive producer of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.
He has now produced more than 4,000 hours of game shows and was nominated for 17 Emmy Awards, winning three for The Price is Right.
Richards has yet to publicly comment on the reports that he is the frontrunner to be the new host, but following the news, Burton took to Twitter to graciously concede.
‘The outpouring of love and support from family, friends and fans alike has been incredible,’ he wrote. ‘If love is the ultimate blessing, and I believe it is, I am truly blessed beyond measure.’
Join our social media accounts to watch exclusive videos and photos