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Australia mourns Reg Grundy, the man who reinvented the 'Wheel'

Reg Grundy, who produced the classic Australian TV shows "Neighbours" and "Wheel of Fortune," has died at the age of 92. The entrepreneur and TV pioneer produced a string of other hit shows in his native Australia.

Game show pioneer Reg Grundy has died at the age of 92, loved ones announced on Monday. Grundy had reportedly fallen into ailing health in recent years, although his intimates specified no cause of death. He lived with his wife, Joy, in Bermuda and leaves behind a daughter, Kim, from a previous marriage.

"So ends a remarkable chapter of a great Australian," his friend Alan Jones told Sydney's 2GB radio on Monday.

The mogul received an Order of the British Empire on Queen Elizabeth II's 1983 New Year Honours List and became a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2008. Grundy sold his company in 1995 to Pearson Television.

A third 'Wheel'

Grundy bought the Australian rights to the US quiz show "Sale of the Century" in 1980 and imported the American celebrity-fueled battle of the sexes "Blankety Blanks" for a two-season run in 1977 and 1978. The show regularly featured such great Australian names as Wendy Blacklock, Stuart Wagstaff and Ugly Dave Gray.

His company, Reg Grundy Organisation, which later morphed into FremantleMedia, produced "Neighbours," Australia's longest-running soap. Since its first episode in 1985, the show has given breaks to hundreds of Australian actors - including Kylie Minogue, Russell Crowe, Margot Robbie and the Hemsworth brothers.

"Reg Grundy is a national treasure," Ian Hogg, chief executive of FremantleMedia Australia said. "His legacy to Australian entertainment is insurmountable. Generations of Australians have grown up with and been touched by a Grundy Production. His innate understanding of great storytelling and entertainment lives on today through programs such as 'Family Feud,' 'Wentworth' and 'Neighbours.'"

Grundy also developed a series of hit drama series - including "Prisoner," "Young Doctors" and "Sons and Daughters" - and the 1977 documentary "Abba: The Movie." At the peak of his career, he became so popular that it became common in the 1980s and 1990s for Australians to refer to their underwear as "Reggies" or "Grundies," rhyming slang for "undies."

Grundy's 1959 "Wheel of Fortune" is not to be confused with the US CBS program that aired from 1952 to 1953 and allowed people to spin for prizes if they had done good deeds. The world's best known "Wheel of Fortune" debuted in the United States in 1975 and was originally hosted by the American game show legend Chuck Woolery, also known for "Scrabble," "Love Connection" and his firearms advocacy. The slightly higher-tech version of the children's word game Hangman was long watched for the on-air chemistry between later hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White.

mkg/rc (AFP, dpa)

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