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Mark Burnett Prods. Nears Sale to IMG

Jun 22, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Reality television titan Mark Burnett’s production company, whose “Survivor” and “Apprentice” shows helped define the genre, soon may be snapped up by global sports and TV production powerhouse IMG.
IMG owner Ted Forstmann has been actively pursuing Mr. Burnett and is close to a deal to acquire a controlling interest in his Mark Burnett Prods., according to a person familiar with the conversations. The deal would dramatically expand IMG’s U.S. television presence while also helping Mr. Burnett beef up his already considerable international operations.
Mr. Burnett’s interest in selling his company has been one of the biggest open secrets around Hollywood for months. The producer had even gone as far as bringing in the now-defunct Bear Stearns to help facilitate any possible deals. It’s not clear if new Bear Stearns owner JPMorgan Chase is still involved in Mr. Burnett’s dealmaking team.
IMG, meanwhile, has been looking to expand its reality footprint in the United States. It’s understood that the company flirted with acquiring Ben Silverman’s Reveille Prods. before Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine did just that.
One reason Mr. Burnett hasn’t sold his company yet is because of the large pricetag attached to any deal—several hundred million dollars, according to several agency and reality industry insiders. Some potential buyers have wondered whether a deal for Mr. Burnett’s company is worth the cost, since he doesn’t have full control of his library of past programs, and those programs haven’t demonstrated a huge back-end value.
Endemol USA and FremantleMedia North America had been mentioned as logical buyers before word of IMG’s interest surfaced.
The upside of a deal for Mark Burnett Prods., of course, is Mr. Burnett. While some of his recent prime-time efforts, such as “Pirate Master” and “On the Lot,” have disappointed, he’s still considered one of, if not the, biggest names in reality TV and commands access to the top levels of management at all the major networks.
IMG has been raising its non-sports TV profile of late. Under IMG Global Media President Chris Albrecht, the company has set up high-profile projects including “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” (Showtime) and “Make Me a Supermodel” (Bravo) via holdings such as Tiger Aspect, Tigress and Darlow Smithson.
News of IMG’s interest in Mr. Burnett’s company was first reported Thursday by LA Weekly’s Deadline Hollywood Daily blog.
(Editor: Baumann)

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