RIP, Merv Griffin

12 Aug

Merv Griffin, entertainer turned multimillionaire businessman, dies at age 82

By BOB THOMAS
Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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, 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 he went into real estate and other ventures because “I was never so bored in my life,” he said in a recent interview.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to sit around and clip coupons for the rest of my life,’ “ he recalled in 1989. “That’s when Barron Hilton said, ‘Merv, do you want to buy the Beverly Hilton?’ I couldn’t believe it.”
Griffin bought the slightly passe hotel for $100.2 million and completely refurbished it for $25 million. Then he made a move for control of Resorts International, which operated hotels and casinos from Atlantic City to the Caribbean.
That touched off a feud with real estate tycoon Donald Trump. Griffin eventually acquired Resorts for $240 million, netting a reported paper profit of $100 million.
“I love the gamesmanship,” he told Life magazine in 1988. “This may sound strange, but it parallels the game shows I’ve been involved in.”

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