Pat Sajak’s Wheel of Fortune stops spinning after 41 years

Vanna White will be back next year with Ryan Seacrest filling Sajak’s role
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FILE - Pat Sajak, left, and Vanna White, from “Wheel of Fortune,” attend a ceremony honoring Harry Friedman with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles on Nov. 1, 2019. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

After 41 years and over 8,000 episodes, Pat Sajak’s final turn as the renowned host of “Wheel of Fortune” will air on Friday.

In a farewell message released ahead of Friday’s episode airing, Sajak thanked the viewers of the beloved game show for granting him the “incredible privilege to be invited into millions of homes, night after night, year after year, decade after decade.”

He noted that he always found it important to keep the daily half-hour show a “safe place for family fun,” excluding any social issues or political topics from the banter he shared with contestants and his co-host and letter turner, Vanna White. He said he wanted to keep the show “just a game,” before noting that to many, it became a part of their daily lives.

“Gradually, it became more than that,” Sajak continued. “A place where kids learned their letters, where people from other countries honed their English skills, where families came together along with friends and neighbors and entire generations. What an honor to have played even a small part in all that.”

White paid an emotional tribute to her partner on Thursday’s episode, calling him “like a brother” and a “true lifelong friend.” In the pre-recorded video that featured clips and photos of their 41 years as co-workers, she added that their personal friendship has meant even more than their professional collaboration.

Sajak announced in June 2023 that he would retire from his hosting duties at the end of the show’s 41st season, with Ryan Seacrest set to succeed him. White will stay on as Seacrest’s co-host through the 2025-2026 season, based on a contract extension she signed in September.

In a recent interview for “Good Morning America” with Sajak’s daughter Maggie, who serves as the show’s social correspondent, the host said he felt “surprisingly OK” given that he announced his retirement almost a year before his final show.

“I’ve had time to sort of get used to it and it’s been a little bit wistful and all that, but I’m enjoying it and taking it all in and reflecting on a great run,” he said.

Looking back on his time with the popular game show, Sajak said he is grateful for how audiences across the country connected with the show and made it a part of their daily routines.

“Somewhere along the line, we became more than a popular show. We became a part of popular culture, and more importantly, we became a part of people’s lives,” he said. “That’s been awfully gratifying.”

READ ALSO: Ryan Seacrest will host ‘Wheel of Fortune’ after Pat Sajak retires next year