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With Mike Richards as boss, The Price is Right's former staffers recall "sh*tty management" and a "vicious cycle"

  • The Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Goldberg delved into Richards' "tumultuous legacy" as co-executive producer, then executive producer and then showrunner of The Price is Right from 2008-2019, interviewing dozens of current and former staffers. The story was published hours after Richards' firing as Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune executive producer Tuesday morning. But Sony TV may have learned this story was in the works and accelerated Richards' ouster -- a firing that might have otherwise occurred on the "Friday bad news dump" before Labor Day Weekend. "The portrait that emerged from these sources — many of whom declined to speak publicly out of fear of retribution in the industry — was of a manager who was more interested in being a host, who ushered out veteran on-set leaders, was the subject of at least two HR complaints to CBS and Fremantle, and presided over budget cuts and loss of benefits to staffers," reports Goldberg. "Multiple sources involved with Price Is Right during Richards’ tenure also questioned his conduct with models on the series. Several sources claimed he would parade models around the stage during rehearsals as he polled employees about their attire and gave preferential treatment to some." However, Gwendolyn Osborne, a Price is Right model from 2005 to 2017, spoke out in defense of Richards after being connected with his PR. "The show had a routine with how to choose wardrobe for the models before Mike arrived and we continued with that routine until Mike made some changes to it,” she said. “This included Mike transitioning from the uncomfortable parading on stage in our outfits to having proper fitting in the wardrobe department with a stylist.” Price is Right host Drew Carey has also defended Richards, tweeting earlier this month that he "he took (the models) from just bodies on the stage to actual people that audiences could get to know as part of the TPIR family." Former staffers told Goldberg that Richards' transformation of The Price is Right led to the dissolution of the close-knit work family that that preceded his tenure on the show. But she noted that The Price is Right had "its share of workplace issues and complaints, including lawsuits" when Bob Barker was host. One former staffer, 18-year art director and production designer Bente Christensen, filed an HR complaint against Richards in 2012, alleging he "was targeting me, bullying, intimidating and demeaning me" with age-related comments while trying to get her to quit. Another staffer supplied through Richards' publicist called Richards "incredibly patient, creative and collaborative in every meeting and discussion that I was in attendance.” Ex-staffers also accused Richards of micromanaging the staff, cutting down on the work schedule, reducing the number of benefits and clashing with the prize department. "Multiple sources say Richards asked the prize department to buy such name-brand items that included Ralph Lauren, Tiffany and Christian Louboutin," reports Goldberg. "When luxury brands declined to provide products to Price in exchange for airtime (which remains standard practice), Richards allegedly had the prizing staff find such items at outlet stores." Richards allegedly "eradicated" the prize department "then hired a staff of his own and made leftover items — including name-brand items — available for sale to staffers (including himself)," says Goldberg. “When Mike got the exec producer job, no one could figure out why he’d take Wheel and Jeopardy! when he had the Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal job — was it more money?” asks a former Price staffer. “Then I realized it’s because he would do some game show things and it was obvious that he wanted to be a game show host. What better way to create that opportunity than to be in charge of the hiring process as EP?”

    TOPICS: Mike Richards, Jeopardy!, The Price is Right, Drew Carey, Game Shows