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

‘Survivor’s’ Burnett faces $70 million lawsuit

Television producer Mark Burnett has been sued for $70 million by a former business partner who claims Burnett has refused to pay his fair share of profits.
/ Source: Reuters

Television producer Mark Burnett, whose hit show “Survivor” helped ignite the reality TV craze in the United States, has been sued for $70 million by a former business partner who claims Burnett has refused to pay his fair share of profits.

Conrad Riggs said in his lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles Monday that Burnett, 47, agreed to pay him 10 percent of future profits in a 1998 deal struck when Burnett, a former British military officer, was breaking into TV.

“As Burnett has acknowledged on several occasions, the significant contributions made by Burnett’s business partner, Conrad Riggs, played a critical role in the success of their enterprise,” the lawsuit states.

The suit was launched as Burnett was in talks to sell his company. Riggs accuses his former partner of seeking to squeeze him out of the profits of any sale.

“We think the lawsuit is unfortunate and without merit and we expect to prevail,” said Steve Marenberg, an attorney for Burnett.

Burnett has won an Emmy Award for “Survivor,” the hit CBS show that he started in 2000. The show takes contestants to picturesque locations around the world where they compete in various challenges.

Other Burnett shows have included “The Apprentice,” in which people compete to work for real estate mogul Donald Trump, and the game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” which tests people’s knowledge.

When they first started working together, Riggs had been a business affairs executive at the Walt Disney Co. and Burnett tapped him for his experience. The two struck an oral agreement to work together, the lawsuit states.

Burnett was trying to find a network willing to buy “Survivor,” and Riggs advised him to pitch it to TV executives as if he was telling a story around a campfire — to give them a sense of the primitive feel of the show, the lawsuit states.

Celebrity Sightings

Slideshow  26 photos

Celebrity Sightings

Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. on the "Let's Be Cops," red carpet, Selena Gomez is immortalized in wax and more.

Riggs also claims he helped assemble the creative staff to launch “The Apprentice” while Burnett was busy on “Survivor.”

Burnett had been paying Riggs and his company, Cloudbreak Entertainment Inc, 10 percent of profits from his media enterprise until February 2007, but in recent months he has sought to alter the profit-sharing deal, the lawsuit states.

Riggs is seeking more than $70 million in damages. The allegations in the suit include breach of oral contract, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of a partnership agreement.