Inside Mike Richards' Personal Life

When Alex Trebek died from pancreatic cancer in November 2020, the legendary host left a hole in the TV landscape. For decades, he had presented the game show, "Jeopardy!" — and many devoted fans were left wondering who could possibly fill Trebek's shoes.

The show responded to their curiosity by revealing a line-up of guest hosts, including celebrity fans of the show like LeVar Burton, Mayim Bialik, Dr. Oz, Aaron Rodgers, and Katie Couric. Probably the least well-known temporary host was Mike Richards, the executive producer of "Jeopardy!" and former host of shows like "High School Reunion" and "Beauty and the Geek." As Variety reported in August 2021, however, Richards is in talks to become the permanent host, at the time of this writing. If he does actually get confirmed as the show's next permanent host, Richards will probably be sticking around for quite a while. "We aren't looking for a three-year host, we're looking for a 10-year or a 20-year host," he previously told Next TV's Broadcasting+Cable in an interview about the guest-hosting process. 

But what's Mike Richards' life like outside of show business? Keep reading to find out more about the personal life of this experienced game show producer.

Mike Richards is a California native who started hosting in college

According to Parade, Mike Richards grew up in La Canada, California. He then moved to Malibu to attend Pepperdine University, where he fostered his love for TV by creating a weekly talk show for the Christian college. "The Randumb Show," which aired late at night, even earned several college broadcasting awards.

"I created it so that we could have campus 'stars' on and interview them," Richards explained to Parade in 2021, revealing that they eventually brought on real stars like Kim Fields from "The Facts of Life," Anson Williams from "Happy Days," and famed DJ Casey Kasem. Richards also recalled the various lessons that their guest celebrities taught him: "Kim Fields was so kind and complimentary of all of the kids working on the show. Anson, who is an incredible director, told me to write. He said if you write, you will always have work. And Casey said you can be successful in this business being kind or not. He chose kindness."

As he further explained, Richards pursued his passion by entertaining the students of Pepperdine University for two years and a total of 44 episodes. "It was the beginning of my love affair with television," he reminisced, adding that he often "slept at the TV station" just to put extra work in. "I hung the lights, built the sets — all because I just loved it!"

He always had a love of TV game shows

As Mike Richards joked in an Instagram post shared in 2017, the same traits that got him in trouble as a kid actually prepared him for life as a TV host. "Don't be a smart a**," he wrote, quoting his teachers. They also told him not to "ask so many questions" or be such an "instigator," according to Richards, who continued: "Yep...all the things that I was told all the time as a kid make me the perfect host for this show!"

He later shared how much he loved game shows as a child, telling Parade that they gave him "that craving to be smart" in his early years. "Jeopardy!" was particularly important to the young Richards. The host joked in an interview on the show's YouTube channel that, at just 10 or 11 years old, he had asked his mom for a subscription to The Wall Street Journal and even started reading the Encyclopedia Britannica, just so that he could get smarter and answer more "Jeopardy!" questions correctly.

"'Jeopardy!' is an incredibly important American institution. It's about making people that are smart the most important people in the room. And I just think it's so important to keep that going and to continue Alex's legacy," the show's executive producer said, adding, "I stepped in [to guest host] to keep the show going."

The Jeopardy! executive producer keeps his family life private

Mike Richards has been a married man since at least 2014, when the "Let's Make a Deal" producer brought his wife to the Daytime Emmy Awards (as seen pictured above). But the Richards family clearly values their privacy, since there isn't much information available about their home life, even on the "Jeopardy" EP's Instagram feed.

As Mike confirmed to Parade, his wife is named Stephanie Richards, and the pair have two sons together — and those kids are already growing into game show aficionados, just like their dad. "As a kid I remember Alex and the mustache," he mused, recalling his childhood memories of "Jeopardy!" and Alex Trebek. "Of course, I tried to figure out the clues, but as a kid, it is really tough. I love watching my kids get one or two right in an episode that directly relates to something they learned in school."

Mike Richards went on to explain that when his sons get a question right, it "validates their hard work," encouraging them to focus more on their education. So hopefully they'll keep supporting the show if and when their dad takes over as host — even if he isn't giving them the answers.

Alex Trebek and Monty Hall were Mike Richards' heroes

As Mike Richards embarks on potentially the biggest career move of his life, at the time of this writing, the "Jeopardy!" executive producer-turned-host will be taking notes from two of his heroes.

"Alex Trebek was not a household name when he started the show," Richards told USA Today in February 2021. "But the qualities that made him so perfect for it were that he had a good voice, that he had an incredibly quick mind that can be the arbiter of the game." He also spoke about how Trebek "became a star and became larger than life, but not because he was trying to be," adding that the longtime "Jeopardy!" host always supported the contestants and was never "trying to be the smartest guy on the stage." Around this time, Richards also paid tribute to Trebek's "charitable" side on Instagram, praising his tendency to help others.

His other source of inspiration was also a "world-class philanthropist," as he called Monty Hall in an Instagram photo of them together in January 2017. Richards referred to Hall as "the most wonderful man" he had ever met, after working with him on "Let's Make a Deal." After Hall died that September, Richards posted a testimonial to the game show host's life, calling it an "inspiration" to him. "He had a legendary career, raised hundreds of millions of dollars for charity and was the ultimate family man," Richards observed.

Mike Richards is a bit of a cowboy at heart

Although Mike Richards doesn't often show off his wife and kids on social media, he has shared their holidays on Instagram. The family seems to have an affinity for ranch life, where they practice their horseback riding and kick up their feet under the stars.

In one picture from New Year's Eve in 2016, the TV host displayed his cowboy boots on a fence, writing, "Boots up watching my boys ride at the Richards Ranch." He then shared an adorable photo of one of his sons riding a horse, with the caption, "Get em cowboy!" Richards also revealed his "fav place on the ranch" in another Instagram pic, which showed a fireside at sunset.

A love of horses and the great outdoors might be another thing Richards has in common with his predecessor, Alex Trebek. According to The San Luis Obispo Tribune, the late "Jeopardy!" host once owned a 724-acre ranch that raised thoroughbred horses. "Windfall Farms," as Trebek called the California property, sold for $10 million dollars back in 2005.

Inside Mike Richards' personal connection to Alex Trebek

When he first filled in as a guest host for "Jeopardy!" in February 2021, Mike Richards delivered a tribute to the late Alex Trebek, in which he declared that the iconic host was "everything you could hope for and more," per Deadline. But his personal connection with Trebek was a dream come true, according to Richards.

Speaking to Parade, the executive producer recalled one of the last conversations he had with Trebek. "I can remember where I was exactly when we spoke," Richards revealed, sharing what issue concerned the legendary presenter most in his final days. "We were talking about the show and he transitioned to talking about the impact of COVID-19," he said. "He called it a challenge to humanity."

Trebek also must have had a connection to the whole Richards family, as he enquired after the game show producer-turned-host's two sons. "He wanted to know how not getting to go to school was affecting my children," Richards added. "He genuinely cared about my kids but also all children."

Mike Richards 'only owned one suit' before his debut as guest host

Although Mike Richards has been an executive producer and host in television for many years, he claims that the world of game shows hasn't turned him into a sharp dresser.

In an interview with USA Today about his stint as a guest host, Richards admitted that he was very unprepared when he had to fill in on "Jeopardy!" unexpectedly. "I didn't know I was going to be doing it until three days before, and so I had not prepared myself to host in the way that I know other guest hosts are," he revealed, adding that the pressure was a lot to handle. "So there was just a lot to unpack. Plus, I also only owned one suit, so there was a little bit of scrambling there."

Richards wasn't supposed to be part of the whole process, as he mentioned to Next TV's Broadcasting+Cable, but the COVID-19 pandemic "had other plans." However, the Emmy winner did clarify to USA Today that the guest-hosting gig was "very fun," and that he was particularly humbled to hear his own moniker instead of Alex Trebek's. "It hit me like a ton of bricks when Johnny Gilbert announced my name. That's of course the last thing you hear when you start to walk out," Richards shared, telling the outlet that it was "overwhelming in the moment."