IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Man claims Burnett stole idea for ‘Apprentice’

Mark Bethea planned to create ‘C.E.O.’ with Trump as host
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Southern California man who sued NBC Universal, Donald Trump and the creator of “The Apprentice” in federal court last year on claims they stole his idea now is suing in state court.

In the Superior Court lawsuit filed Monday, Mark Bethea claims that he and the Velocity Entertainment Group came up with the idea for an unscripted series called “C.E.O.” The lawsuit said the series would have been set up in a corporate office environment, with Trump as its host.

The lawsuit is against Mark Burnett and his partner, Conrad Riggs. It claims Bethea pitched the idea to Burnett and Riggs in 2001 and they later lifted “substantial and integral material” from “C.E.O.”

A phone call to an NBC representative seeking comment early Wednesday wasn’t immediately returned.

Burnett, producer of “Survivor” and “The Contender,” had disputed Bethea’s claims in the federal lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles in September. Burnett said he came up with the concept for “The Apprentice” in December 2002 while shooting “Survivor” in the Brazilian rain forest.

The federal lawsuit, which sought damages for copyright infringement, breach of implied contract and unfair competition, estimated that Burnett, Trump and the network had made more than $100 million from the NBC reality show.

Bethea owns the copyright to “C.E.O.” and its idea was registered with the Writers Guild of America in August 2000, according to the state lawsuit.