Exec new CEO of socially-minded org

Former Hard Rock Cafe Intl. topper James Berk has been tapped to serve as CEO of Jeff Skoll’s socially minded Participant Prods.

Skoll, who made his fortune while serving in the top exec ranks of eBay, said the hire reflects the growth and success of Participant, which aims to support film projects with a social message. Company co-financed pics including the features “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Syriana” and docu “An Inconvenient Truth.”

In assuming the CEO responsibilities — previously carried out by Skoll, who holds the title of founder and chair — Berk will handle the day-to-day operation and management of the company. He’ll also be responsible for spearheading Participant’s reach beyond film to other media, as well as branding.

Skoll said Berk fits in well with Participant’s mandate, citing Berk’s broad experience in business, entertainment and public service.

Berk, 46, was the founding exec director of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Foundation, helping to create a number of programs, including the Grammy National Concert Series for Children. On the marketing side, he created specialized campaigns including the American Express Grammy Gold Card Festival.

While at Hard Rock, Berk led the conglom’s expansion into live concerts through the creation of Hard Rock Prods., TV series “Hard Rock Live on VH1” and Hard Rock Records. He also oversaw the growth of Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos.

Skoll and Participant prexy Ricky Strauss conducted the CEO search, along with the company’s board of directors.

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