Merv Griffin, TV Legend Who Built Game-Show Empire, Dies at 82

Former Talk-Show Host Created 'Wheel of fortune,' 'Jeopardy!'

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Merv Griffin, the former TV talk show host, creator of "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune," and entrepreneur has died. He was 82.
Merv Griffin
Merv Griffin

"Merv was not only the creator of my show, 'Jeopardy!,' he was also a friend," said the game show's host, Alex Trebek. "Over the past 24 years, I found him to be a very outgoing individual with a great lust for life, always eager to tell a joke, have fun, and entertain. Whatever project he tackled, he did with gusto and great effort."

Paying tribute to his memory
As news of Mr. Griffin's passing spread throughout the industry, his business partners and friends were quick to pay tribute to his memory. Executives from Program Partners, which is distributing and co-producing Mr. Griffin's upcoming game show "Merv Griffin's Crosswords," noted that he was a key player in the growth of the TV industry.

"To say that working with Merv Griffin has been a highlight of our careers is an understatement," Program Partners' co-founders Ritch Colbert and Josh Raphaelson said in a statement. "A true renaissance man, Merv never ceased to impress us with his creativity, vision and amazing sense of humor. He has literally touched generations of people both in our business and beyond with his contributions and generosity."

A spokesperson for the show noted that the upcoming Monday through Friday program would continue without change for the fall, and that the name of the series would remain the same.

'Genius' praised for his work ethic
"That Merv was a genius in his work is beyond dispute," Messrs. Colbert and Raphaelson said. "His work ethic was remarkable, as we observed in his contributions to 'Crosswords,'" even in the very last days.

"But Merv also had a special gift for discovering and encouraging young talent, and there are innumerable people who credit him with the essential boost that propelled their careers in entertainment. That legion of the grateful will be his legacy; we count ourselves among them. We will remember Merv with love and appreciation always."

Reports of a recurrence of prostate cancer, which Mr. Griffin battled in the 1990s, surfaced last month. A spokeswoman for the entertainer confirmed that prostate cancer was the cause of death in a statement to the Associated Press.

Mr. Griffin started his entertainment career as a singer and bandleader before becoming a film actor, TV personality, show creator and entrepreneur.

Sold company for $250 million
In 1986, he sold his production company, Merv Griffin Enterprises, to Columbia Pictures Television, now owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, for $250 million and a continuing share of the profits of the shows. At that time, the transaction was the largest acquisition of an entertainment company owned by a single individual, according to the Internet Movie Database.

"He became a giant in many facets of our industry -- music, television talk shows, game shows, casinos, hotels and most recently, horse racing," Mr. Trebek said. "He lead a very full life -- on his own terms -- and he will be missed."

The former host of "The Merv Griffin Show" made Forbes' list of richest Americans several times, according to the AP. He later dabbled in the hotel business. Among his ventures, he at one point owned and refurbished the Beverly Hilton.

"Working with Merv will always be the highlight of my career," said "Crosswords" host Ty Treadway. "He was the ultimate entertainer, businessman and teacher. Merv was a legend who could make you smile with a song, a joke or his infectious laugh. He touched so many lives and will be deeply missed."
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