Mark Burnett, chairman of MGM’s global television group, is leaving the company following Amazon’s acquisition of the studio.
The executive and reality producer said he was moving away from the “day-to-day management” of MGM TV and returning to “creating and innovating independently” and plans to continue overseeing his old programs.
Burnett becomes the latest senior MGM executive to leave following the retail giant/streamer’s $8.5 billion deal to take over the studio behind franchises including James Bond. Rocky / Creed and The Handmaid’s Tale. Film group president Michael De Luca and film group president Pam Abdy also left their roles on April 27.
The news comes after Amazon officially completed its acquisition of MGM. Like the departures of De Luca and Abdy, Burnett’s departure was in some ways expected as industry observers questioned how reality played the starring role behind hits including Survivor, the voice and Shark cage would suit Amazon head Jennifer Salke. The latter exec has led Amazon since she left as NBC Entertainment president in early 2018. Burnett, like Salke, reported to senior vp Mike Hopkins.
Hopkins and Burnett addressed the move via internal memos to staff on Monday. (Read both below.)
The timing of Burnett’s departure is looming as Amazon is expected to hire a motion picture executive to lead MGM. Tell sources The Hollywood Reporter that Amazon is in talks with former Warner executive Courtenay Valenti, who is considering her options.
Burnett joined MGM Television in 2015 and was promoted to chairman of the global television group in 2018 as part of a new contract due to expire this year. At the time, Burnett called the job the “most fun I’ve had in my career.” Burnett arrived at MGM TV with a slew of hits under his belt, including NBC’s The intern (which paved the way for Donald Trump’s successful bid for the US president whose inauguration he would eventually oversee). His tenure at the studio yielded some early sales – Fox’s Defeat Shazam and CBS’ TKO – although none have come close to the kind of breakout hits for which he’s best known.
As previously described in November 2020 THR story, Burnett was best known as an agent of chaos at MGM as the studio endured the departure of senior executives and at least one HR complaint. Sources said Burnett tended to meddle in areas where he had no defined role and regularly harassed and criticized staffers and fellow executives. It’s also worth noting that MGM TV president Steve Stark – not Burnett – was the driving force behind MGM’s prestigious TV hits, including FX’s Fargo and Hulu’s Emmy-winning The Handmaid’s Tale. Stark stunned colleagues in February 2021 when he resigned his new one-year contract after ten years with the studio as part of what sources described as the company’s “Burnett-ification”.
Amazon’s Hopkins and Salke will now oversee what to do with MGM’s vast movie and TV library, which includes more than 4,000 feature film titles and 17,000 episodes.
Here are Burnett and Hopkins’ memos:
We have been working together for a long time, decades in some cases. We’ve innovated new shows and kept our old hits with one of the highest renewal rates in global television. I get a lot of praise for that. But we all know it’s not about me. It’s about all of you.
It takes amazing teams of talented people to produce more than 3,200 hours of television in total, including long-running hits like Survivor, The Voice, and Shark Tank, and innovative scripted series like The Bible, which have garnered a combined 143 EMMY nominations.
In 2014, I sold most of my businesses to MGM and came to this legendary 100-year-old studio as President of Television. I later sold the rest of my companies for MGM stock and became president of MGM Global Television because I believed in the value of MGM.
I had a clear strategic vision to build and grow MGM’s television division with my dynamic team, which included buying great companies like Evolution and Big Fish, adding international scripted and unscripted teams, and starting a documentary -unit. We took calibrated risks and hired great people – and the company grew.
That growth was critical to MGM’s future, as MGM needed to maximize its value to attract a global streaming partner and be ready for the next 100 years. I am proud to be part of the team that made the historic sale to Amazon in 2022.
Now, after months of concerted transition efforts, we’ve carefully reorganized our teams so they all have the chance to thrive under the leadership of Mike Hopkins, Jennifer Salke and Christopher Brearton. In these days of media layoffs, I’m proud to say that everyone in the TV division has been given a way to continue to contribute. Nobody was left behind.
As I step away from day-to-day management and return to creating and innovating independently, I will continue to oversee my legacy series and be available to all of you and Amazon for guidance and support.
Thank you team – I literally couldn’t have done this without all of you.
hi team –
As you probably just read, Mark Burnett has decided to leave Amazon and MGM to resume his work as an independent creator and producer. I wanted to thank him for his countless contributions to our success and, on a personal level, for his partnership and advice during the integration. I know you can all agree that he is one of the most innovative, creative and prolific television producers in our industry, and we have been extremely fortunate to have him on our team.
Mark’s stepping aside naturally raises both opportunities and questions about how we will organize in the future. Soon you will hear more about this.
I am incredibly proud of the outstanding television and film content we produce, and look forward to 2023 and beyond as we continue to build on this legacy as a fully integrated team. Thank you for all your efforts and dedication as we move into a dynamic and successful future together.