August 12, 2007
Merv Griffin, the entertainer turned impresario who parlayed his "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune" game shows into a multimillion-dollar empire, has died. He was 82.
Griffin died of prostate cancer, according to a statement from his the family that was released by Marcia Newberger, spokeswoman for The Griffin Group/Merv Griffin Entertainment.
Griffin, who began his career as a $100-a-week radio singer in San Francisco, created the "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" game shows, soon moved on to become the featured vocalist in Freddy Martin's band.
That led to a brief film career, in which he appeared opposite Doris Day and Kathryn Grayson, and later to a successful TV career as host of "The Merv Griffin Show," which aired for more than 20 years.
His biggest financial break, however, came from inventing and producing "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune."
After they became the hottest game shows in television, Griffin sold the rights to them to the Columbia Pictures Television Unit for $250 million, retaining a share of the profits. He started spreading the sale money around in treasury bonds, stocks and other investments, but quickly became bored.