Richard King, Founding Partner of King World Productions, Dies at 79

Richard King
Courtesy Lauren King

Richard King

He was the second-oldest of the six King children that received equal shares in the company founded by their father.

Richard King, a founding partner of King World Productions, the syndication powerhouse that was behind such programs as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, has died. He was 79.

King died Monday in Los Angeles after a long struggle with heart and lung disease, his family announced.

He was the second-oldest of the six King children that received equal shares from their mother, Lucille, in the company founded by their father, Charles King, following his death in 1972. He served for years on the King World board but primarily left his brothers, Robert, Roger and Michael, to build the business.

In 1983, King World, then known for syndicating the Little Rascals comedies but little else, acquired the syndication rights to Wheel of Fortune, and a year later it picked up another Merv Griffin-created game show, Jeopardy!

The Oprah Winfrey Show premiered in 1986, and her Chicago-based talk show led to another daytime program, Dr. Phil. King World also found great success with Rachael Ray and Inside Edition.

From its modest beginnings working out of the family home in New Jersey, King World went public in 1984 and 15 years later was purchased by CBS for $2.5 billion in stock.

"We were always the outsiders, we really were the American success story," Richard King said in a 2005 interview. "We were long shots to be where we are today."

Richard Charles King was born on May 5, 1941, in Plainfield, New Jersey. He played semipro football before joining the U.S. Army, then followed in his father's footsteps when he began a career in radio at a station in Worcester, Massachusetts.

King also owned a chain of retail stores called All Night Boutiques and was a real estate developer in South Florida.

Robert King, who left King World in the mid-'80s and eventually became president of Columbia Pictures Television, died in March at age 80. Roger King died in 2007 at 63 and Michael King died in 2015 at 67, and their younger sister, Diana King, died in 2019 at 69.

Survivors include his wife of 26 years, Lauren; their sons, Charlie (and his wife, Maggie), Richard Jr. (Janae), Michael (Laura) and Bobby; his sister, Karen; grandchildren Charlie Jr., James, Elizabeth, Richard III and Matthew; sisters-in-law Lynn (Robert) and Jena (Michael); and 31 nieces and nephews.

"His friends and family always described Richie as a fun-loving, larger-than-life man who filled a room with laughter, love and an infectious smile," his family said in a statement. "His incredible sense of humor, one-liners, acerbic wit and twinkle in his eye will be missed but always remembered."