Mike Richards is stepping down as executive producer of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” Sony Pictures Television executive Suzanne Prete announced Tuesday in an email statement to staffers of the two game shows.
The news comes less than two weeks after he was ousted from his brief tenure as host of “Jeopardy!” following a report about past misogynistic comments and a drumbeat of criticism about his selection and how it was made.
“We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at ‘Jeopardy!’ it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened,” Prete said.
A spokesperson for Sony Pictures Television told NBC News that Richards will stay on as executive producer of the show.
Richards was chosen earlier this month as the successor to Alex Trebek, a decision that was seen as divisive from the beginning after the show had embarked on a search that included actors, sports figures, journalists and celebrities.
The Ringer website then published a story revealing demeaning comments about women, the homeless and others that Richards had made on a 2013-14 podcast, “The Randumb Show.” The clips were removed online after the report was posted.
At the time, Richards said in a note to staffers that moving forward as host would be “too much of a distraction” but indicated that he would remain the show’s executive producer.
Prete said Michael Davies, the British television producer and CEO of Embassy Row, will help with production of the shows on an interim basis.
Mike Richards and Mayim Bialik will be the new hosts of “Jeopardy!”
A search to find a new host is ongoing, with guest hosts slated to return to continue production for the new season. When Richards was initially tapped to host the popular game show, Sony also announced that actor Mayim Bialik would emcee “Jeopardy!” prime-time and spinoff series, including a new college championship.
While the report of Richards’ podcasts immediately preceded his exit, there had also been renewed attention to his 2009-18 tenure as a producer on “The Price is Right.” Several lawsuits had been filed by former models against the show alleging discriminatory behavior, including one which named Richards. He reportedly was dropped from it before a settlement was reached.
Doubts also grew about the fairness of the selection process, with reports finding holes in Richards’ repeated assertion that the decision was Sony’s and he had no role in it.
Sony’s decision to crown the “Jeopardy!” executive producer as Trebek’s successor — after a pageant-style parade of celebrity contenders — had stirred ill-will and suspicion toward what had been a remarkably trusted institution. Trebek, who hosted the show for 37 seasons, died last November.