Former Jeopardy! host Mike Richards has reportedly hired a lawyer to battle Sony over his recent firing. Not only was Richards chosen to become the permanent host of Jeopardy!, but he also served as executive producer for the quiz show and for Wheel of Fortune. However, due to backlash over offensive comments he made on a since-deleted podcast and his reported aggressive behavior when he served as executive producer of The Price Is Right, Richards stepped down from his hosting duties. Sony took it one step further, however, and officially fired Richards from his executive producer title earlier this week.
The search for a permanent host of Jeopardy! has proven to be an uphill battle for the show’s creators. Beginning after the late Alex Trebek lost his battle to stage four pancreatic cancer, the quiz show auditioned numerous potential hosts, including Ken Jennings, LeVar Burton and Mayim Bialik. While fans of Jeopardy! pushed for Reading Rainbow’s Burton to become the new host, the show’s creators ended up choosing Richards. This decision was highly criticized for its apparent favoritism in which the EP essentially chose himself for the job. Now, Richards is not only out of his hosting gig, but he is also no longer serving as the show’s executive producer.
According to Matthew Belloni’s newsletter What I’m Hearing… Richards has reportedly hired litigator Bryan Freedman to battle Sony in a legal fight over his recent firing. The former THR editor explains that while the parties are in the early stage of negotiations, Freedman is blaming Sony for their “mishandling” of the situation that caused Richards to go “from three jobs to zero” in such a short time. Additionally, Freedman is accusing Sony of tarnishing Richards’ reputation, which may cause him “trouble working in the industry” in the future. View Belloni’s full statement concerning the matter below:
“I’m told [Sony Pictures C.E.O. Tony Vinciquerra and Sony TV’s Ravi Ahuja] called Richards together on Sunday night and solemnly asked him to resign. Richards then hired litigator Bryan Freedman, as I told you last week he might. It’s still early in the negotiations, but Freedman is already blaming Sony for mishandling the situation so badly that his client went from three jobs to zero and may have trouble working in the industry. Sony and Freedman declined to comment, but I’m told the conversation has now turned to Sony’s options with Richards.”
Belloni also explains that last Sunday, Sony Pictures CEO Tony Vinciquerra and Sony TV’s Ravi Ahuja called Richards and asked him to resign from his position. Just nine days after being chosen as permanent host of Jeopardy!, Richards stepped down from the role citing that he would be “too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show.” However, while Belloni mentions that Freedman blames Sony for their mishandling of the situation, many argue that Richards has only himself to blame, considering his inappropriate behavior on his former show.
As Richards gears up for his fight against Sony, fans of Jeopardy! are still left without a permanent host. Given that the majority of the general public disapproved of the decision to cast Richards as the host of the quiz show, his stepping down was met with relief and praise. Furthermore, many also see Richards’ firing as executive producer as a positive development that send a strong message that Sony will not tolerate egregious behavior from their staff.
Source: What I’m Hearing… (Matthew Belloni)