Sajak announced Monday he would be retiring as 'Wheel of Fortune' host after the upcoming 41st season, so who could be taking over?
Legendary Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak announced on Monday that he'll be retiring after the upcoming 41st season of the iconic game show, leaving many wondering who could potentially take his place at the big wheel.
"Well, the time has come. I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last," Sajak confirmed in a tweet. "It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all." The 76-year-old longtime host ended his note with a witty quip: "If nothing else, it’ll keep the clickbait sites busy!"
But he won't be going too far. Suzanne Prete, executive vice president of game shows at Sony Pictures Television -- the studio behind Wheel of Fortune -- told CNN that Sajak will serve as a "consultant on the show for three years following his last year hosting.”
"With Pat Sajak, people were wondering when was he going to retire. He's been doing this for over 40 years," Variety's senior culture & events editor Marc Malkin told ET on Tuesday. "As every season went on, people were expecting at some point he was going to say, 'I'm retiring,' and he's given the world some time to get used to it. Next season will be his last season, so we haven't seen the last of Pat yet." He noted that Sajak's announcement "is a very planned business decision."
Several notable names have surfaced as possible frontrunners to fill Sajak's shoes once he departs, including Ryan Seacrest, who recently exited as co-host of Live!; Whoopi Goldberg, who on Tuesday's The View expressed a desire to have Sajak's job; and even longtime Wheel of Fortune letter-turner Vanna White.
The American Idol host has reportedly been "talking" to Wheel of Fortune producers, according to a tweet by a Bloomberg reporter. "If Ryan Seacrest wants this job, it sort of goes hand in hand with what happened with Live! With Kelly and Ryan. He wanted to move back to L.A. He's back in L.A. The show shoots in L.A.," Malkin said.
"We know Ryan is personable. We know he knows these kinds of formats really well. And Ryan, he's the brand people know," he added. "Ryan Seacrest on Wheel of Fortune... That's a pretty good bet too."
Goldberg revealed on Tuesday's The View that she was interested in replacing Sajak, saying on the daytime talk show, "I want that job. I think it would be tons of fun."
"I think Whoopi Goldberg is definitely a wild card here," Malkin acknowledged. "She said on The View she'd love to do it. But has she actually really thought about it? Has she thought about the logistics? The show is such a legend here in Los Angeles, would it shoot in New York? Would Whoopi have the time to do it? Whoopi reacting to the news... but does she really want to do it? We'll see."
According to Malkin, the odds of White potentially taking over Sajak's job "are pretty well for a way to do it." He referenced her past guest hosting gigs on Wheel of Fortune.
"She's done it in the past. It stays with the brand," he said. "A lot of people, when it comes to television, they don't want to shake up and one thing has changed too much. Vanna White is a guarantee that I think the show will still have its staying power."
Sajak's daughter, Maggie, joined Wheel of Fortune as a social correspondent in 2021. Malkin said he's sure Sajak "would love to keep it in the family with his daughter" when asked his thoughts on her taking the helm of the beloved game show.
"I imagine if his daughter really wants this gig, Pat is definitely pushing for it. But I think she'd obviously have something to prove, a little more than someone like a Vanna White," he posited.
As the conversation heats up regarding who could take over Sajak's coveted spot, the idea of guest hosts -- at least before they find a permanent replacement -- seemed plausible.
"If they're smart, they're going to make this tune-in television with different guest hosts just like they did with Jeopardy!" Malkin said, "obviously under different circumstances but it does become this watercooler talk. 'Who's going to replace Pat Sajak?' 'Did you see so-and-so guest hosting last night?' 'Oh, look who's guest hosting next week.' It just builds the buzz until the final announcement when they say, 'This is who the new host is.'"
Sajak has hosted Wheel of Fortune since 1981, when he took over from original host Chuck Woolery. He and White, who joined the game show in 1982 and reacted to Sajak's retirement news on Monday evening, have been TV mainstays ever since.
Sajak became the longest-running game show host in 2018, surpassing The Price Is Right's Bob Barker. The only significant period of time he was away from Wheel of Fortune was in 2019 following surgery.
ET spoke with Sajak last September, where the host admitted retirement was a topic that had been on his mind in recent years.
"In most television shows by this time, you would have said, 'That’s probably enough,' but this show will not die," he said at the time of Wheel of Fortune, which premiered in 1975. "It appears I may go before the show."
"Years go by fast. We're getting near the end. It's been a long [time]. We're not gonna do this for another 40 years. The end is near," Sajak hinted. "It's an honor to have been in people's living rooms for that long. People were out there welcoming us. We're happy and proud."