Pat Sajak, the host of the beloved game show Wheel of Fortune for over four decades, announced in a tweet that he will step down next year.
“Well, the time has come. I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last,” Sajak shared. “It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all.” He will work as a consultant on the show for three years after his final season.
Suzanne Prete, executive vice president of game shows for Sony Pictures Television, said in a statement, “We are incredibly thankful and proud to have had Pat as our esteemed host throughout these remarkable years.”
Less than two weeks later, Sajak’s replacement was officially announced: Ryan Seacrest will be taking the helm of the beloved game show.
Longest-running game show host of all time
Since 1981, Sajak, now 76, has guided Wheel of Fortune alongside co-host Vanna White, captivating audiences nationwide. It has aired over 7,000 episodes, making it one of the longest-running game shows in the United States.
Given how long Sajak and White have worked together, many viewers have wondered over the years whether or not the pair was ever romantically involved. It’s a question that White finally answered. Here’s a brief history of the hosts’ time on the show and their unique relationship.
Joining ‘Wheel of Fortune’
Pat Sajak joined Wheel of Fortune in December of 1981. A year later, Vanna White was also made part of the cast. She made it to the final round of casting over more than 200 other women who hoped to become the future letter flipper. Ultimately, White won out over Summer Bartholomew and Vicki McCarty, the other top choices for the role of hostess.
After testing each of the women on real episodes of the show, the producer decided that White was the one who activated the letters best of all the candidates. She quickly became very popular among viewers, particularly young adults. Many of her fans were interested in her dazzling show wardrobe. The phenomenon, known as “Vannamania,” swept through the United States, earning the new star numerous additional jobs outside of Wheel of Fortune.
Nearly 40 years together
For the next 40 years, White and Sajak would work intimately together as host and hostess of Wheel of Fortune. While they generally stuck to the same roles throughout this time, there were a few instances where they would swap, most notably in November 1996 when Sajak had laryngitis.
Despite their many years together, in 2020 Sajak admitted that he initially didn’t want White to be cast as the hostess. He said, “Not that she wasn’t lovely and wonderful and personable and all that. But she was the most nervous, by far, of any of them.”
White obviously proved him wrong and has done a wonderful job. It helped that the pair seems to have such incredible chemistry together. It’s this very chemistry which has caused many fans to question just what kind of relationship White and Sajak had outside of filming.
Friends or more?
It is well known that White and Sajak get along well – extremely well, in fact. According to White herself, they rarely disagree on anything except whether ketchup should be put on a hot dog. Yet despite their closeness, White has emphasized that they really are just best friends and there is nothing romantic going on between them. The closest the two have come to being involved was when they played a prank on their audience.
“Years and years ago, we did an April Fool’s joke,” White recalled. “I don’t know that we said we were married, but we said something about being together, and we received toasters…” Sajak added later that it took years for people to stop sending the “married couple” Crockpots.
So although the renowned Wheel of Fortune stars have been together, in a work sense, for longer than most couples, they are not, and have never been, in a romantic relationship.
Nearly 20 years without a raise?
Soon after Sajak announced his retirement, fans were stunned to learn that Vanna White has not gotten a pay raise in 18 years. This surprising revelation comes from Puck reporter Matthew Belloni, who says that White, 66, has hired an aggressive lawyer to negotiate a raise as her current deal concludes at the end of the 2023-24 season.
Puck’s report states that White currently earns $3 million annually, while Sajak earns five times more than that. While some argue that Sajak is the host while White is a co-host responsible only for revealing letters on the board, Puck asserts that White engages in significantly more publicity for the show than Sajak. Sony, the show’s production company, declined to comment on Puck’s findings.
Whoopi Goldberg from The View expressed interest in taking over Sajak’s role, and several other notable names, including Ryan Seacrest and Sajak’s daughter Maggie, were mentioned as potential candidates.
Seacrest was named the new host of ‘Wheel’
The New York Times and other media outlets reported on June 27 that Ryan Seacrest will take over as the host of Wheel of Fortune. The news comes just two weeks after Sajak’s announcement. Seacrest, 48, is a talk show veteran himself, having hosted and produced many other programs including American Idol and Live with Kelly and Ryan.
“I’m truly humbled to be stepping into the footsteps of the legendary Pat Sajak,” Seacrest said in a statement. “I can say, along with the rest of America, that it’s been a privilege and pure joy to watch Pat and Vanna on our television screens for an unprecedented 40 years, making us smile every night and feel right at home with them.”
Seacrest will also act as a consulting producer on the show.