When Pat Sajak announced his retirement from Wheel of Fortune, suddenly the spotlight was on Vanna White and whether she would stay. Vanna wants to stay, and she was already negotiating her new contract with her new ballbuster lawyer when Sajak announced his retirement. As it turned out, Vanna hired the lawyer because she hasn’t gotten a raise in 18 years, and she’s asking for half of what Pat Sajak made – he made about $15 million per year, so she probably wants about $7.5 million a year, as opposed to the $3 million she’s made annually for the past 18 years. When Ryan Seacrest was announced as Sajak’s replacement, I had a really bad feeling that Seacrest would find some way to oust Vanna. Well, guess what? Vanna’s getting the vibe that producers believe she’s “replaceable.”
Vanna White feels like Wheel Of Fortune bosses think she is ‘replaceable’ and have a ‘lack of respect for her’ after they hired Ryan Seacrest as longtime host Pat Sajak’s successor without offering her a chance to take on the role. A source close to White, 66, told DailyMail.com exclusively that she was ‘disappointed’ that they made a decision about Seacrest, 48, so quickly – with show executives announcing Seacrest as the new host less than two weeks after Sajak, 76, publicly revealed he was retiring.
‘She was disappointed that they didn’t give her more of a chance to take over Pat’s job, or that she wasn’t able to give her two cents on the replacement,’ the insider said. ‘She didn’t assume they would be making the announcement of his replacement so soon.’
The source was quick to emphasize White had ‘nothing but respect for Ryan and will be happy to work with him, but it just shows a lack of respect in her eyes that they have for her. She wants to be with the show for as long as she wants to be on the show, on her terms. She believes she deserves it,’ the insider added.
‘It is a major uphill battle, especially when money is involved and she sees the writing on the wall that they think she is replaceable. There will be lots of negotiations, but if she gets replaced and is not given a new contract, she will be beyond heartbroken. This has been her life, it would be just as powerful as a death if she doesn’t continue with the show.’
The insider further elaborated the transition that the retirement of Wheel’s longtime executive producer Harry Friedman, 76, in August 2019 was what initially seemed to set in motion a new era for the game show.
‘Things got a little bit different with the show for Pat and Vanna during COVID, as the atmosphere changed on set once [Harry] left the show and retired,’ they said. ‘It just wasn’t the same vibe… Nobody dislikes anyone, it is just different, and the leverage that Pat and Vanna once had is not there anymore. Pat saw the writing on the wall and thought if there was ever a time to leave, now would be that time.’
As for Vanna, the source added: ‘She usually… keeps to herself, comes to work, does her thing, and leaves. She is friendly with everyone, but with the new regime, she doesn’t have the clout she once had, is no longer bulletproof, and is unfortunately made to feel replaceable. She doesn’t want to retire and leave the show, so she really hopes she doesn’t get pushed out. That is the last thing on her list to happen, she wants to stay, but she also wants it to be fair and is going to fight for what she believes in and what she deserves.’
Who knew that Wheel of Fortune had all of these backroom politics and in-fighting to the point where Sajak and White would need “leverage” with one particular producer? I guess the corporate perspective was “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – Vanna and Pat provided an ocean of stability for the game show, but now that Sajak is out, the business believes that it’s worth exploring all kinds of other options. Which I sort of understand from a cold, business perspective. But I think the WoF bosses are really underestimating Vanna’s popularity, and her ability to do reputational damage to the show if she’s treated poorly or fired outright.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.