Conflict comes to an end with 'Apprentice' agreement

Resolving a face-off that had been worthy of its own reality show, Mark Burnett and Madison Road Entertainment have dropped their dueling lawsuits and agreed to forge a new alliance.

Under the new arrangement, Madison Road will help incorporate marketing partners on at least two episodes of the fifth edition of “The Apprentice” and also work with Mark Burnett Prods. on an as-yet-unidentified future reality series.

“We got to know each other better and realized there were more good things to come from collaborating than bickering with each other,” said Conrad Riggs, who heads up Burnett’s production company. Settlement was unexpected given the level of vitriol between the two sides just two months ago.

Madison Road — a branded entertainment and production firm headed by Jak Severson and Tom Mazza — had in the past paid Burnett for rights to secure sponsors for “The Apprentice,” bringing Procter & Gamble, Mars and others to the show. But the relationship eventually soured, and both sides filed suit in early March.

Burnett struck first, accusing Madison Road of charging advertisers as much as 250% more than his fees and falsely representing its relationship with Burnett and “The Apprentice.” Countering, Madison Road branded Burnett a “bully” and alleged the producer was using Madison Road as a “scapegoat” because advertisers wouldn’t accept an increase in sponsorship fees on “The Apprentice” — which the suit put at $5 million. Madison Road also had alleged that Burnett timed his suit to the launch of his own inhouse branded entertainment division and was looking to “undermine the competition.”

According to Severson, Burnett asked to meet a month ago, and both sides agreed over lunch to put the dispute behind them. “We spent the last month really working toward an understanding, given our collective workloads,” said Severson, CEO of Madison Road. “As the result of this settlement, you’ll see us out in the marketplace together with something that will change the dynamics of advertising and content.”

Burnett is next behind this summer’s CBS reality entry “Rock Star: INXS,” while Madison Road is working with Imagine TV and Magical Elves on the NBC entry “Treasure Hunters.”

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