Wheel of Fortune shocker: Pat Sajak to step down as host

'Wheel of Fortune' host Pat Sajak
(Image credit: Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)

For over four decades, Pat Sajak has beamed into homes as the host of the popular game show Wheel of Fortune. The game, which features contestants spinning a  wheel and choosing letters to help solve puzzles, premiered in 1975 and spawned several spinoffs in other countries, including the popular Celebrity Wheel of Fortune in the US. Now, the man whose name has been synonymous with the show is stepping down after the conclusion of season 41.

Sajak, who is 76, released a statement on Twitter on Monday outlining his plan to leave the show: "Well, the time has come. I've decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last. It's been a wonderful ride, and I'll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all. (If nothing else, it'll keep the clickbait sites busy!)"

The tongue-in-cheek jab at how his news will be received is trademark Sajak humor. In fact, his witty humor has always helped keep contestants on their toes while ensuring that the TV audience is having fun. 

Chuck Woolery (The Dating Game) was the original Wheel of Fortune host. Woolery made his debut during the 1975 premiere and was on the show all the way through 1981, only missing one week in 1980 when Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek filled in for him.

Woolery departed the show after a salary dispute with Merv Griffin, the prolific TV mogul who created Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. Griffin selected Sajak as Woolery's replacement, enjoying Sajak's "odd" sense of humor. 

Sajak started his run as Wheel of Fortune host in late December 1981. At the time, Susan Stafford was the hostess who turned letters over on the puzzle board. She left in 1982 and Griffin selected Vanna White as her replacement after a lengthy nationwide search.

It's hard to imagine Wheel of Fortune without Pat Sajak. Multiple generations of families have grown up watching him host the show, delighting in his jokes and antics. Thankfully, we have some time before we have to say goodbye and there's no doubt that there will be many opportunities to celebrate his tenure before the search for a replacement begins.


Sarabeth Pollock
Editorial Content Producer


Sarabeth joined the What to Watch team in May 2022. An avid TV and movie fan, her perennial favorites are The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, true crime documentaries on Netflix and anything from Passionflix. You’ve Got Mail, Ocean's Eleven and Signs are movies that she can watch all day long. She's also a huge baseball fan, and hockey is a new favorite.  

When she's not working, Sarabeth hosts the My Nights Are Booked Podcast and a blog dedicated to books and interviews with authors and actors. She also published her first novel, Once Upon an Interview, in 2022.