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Fremantle taps CEO

Gutteridge to run North American division

Hoping to take advantage of the megasuccess of “American Idol,” FremantleMedia has brought in U.K. TV vet Tom Gutteridge to run the company’s North American operations.

Gutteridge, who takes the newly created position of FremantleMedia North America CEO, has been charged with expanding the production company’s presence in the U.S. Besides producing “American Idol” (along with 19 Television), Fremantle’s program stable includes CBS’ “The Price Is Right” and TLC’s “Date Patrol.”

“This company now has an amazing opportunity,” Gutteridge said. “It has the No. 1 show in America, a huge, long-running, valuable and profitable franchise in place. There is almost no excuse why the company should not capitalize on that and become a major production force in America.”

Gutteridge joins Fremantle from U.K. indie TV operation the Television Corp., where he was group creative director. While there, he exec produced Fox’s reality skein “Paradise Hotel” as well as the net’s upcoming entry “Forever Eden.”

Under terms of his deal at Fremantle, he’ll split his time in the coming months between his CEO gig and continuing his work on “Eden,” which premieres March 1. Gutteridge is committed to exec producing the first 25 segs of “Eden.”

Gutteridge said he hoped to attract more reality producers to Fremantle, although the company doesn’t plan to acquire any smaller shingles. The exec plans to sell producers on the fact that Fremantle has an international format and distribution infrastructure already in place.

“Fremantle is in almost every territory in the world,” he said. “There isn’t another business in America that can offer that kind of package to creatives.”

Beyond reality, Gutteridge said Fremantle would look to expand into the scripted realm.

“The bottom line is, Fremantle needs to be a major creative powerhouse,” he said.

Gutteridge will report to Catherine Mackay, FremantleMedia’s regional CEO of Australasia, Asia and the U.S. She said Gutteridge’s appointment brings the North America market in line with FremantleMedia’s other territories, all of which are run by CEOs.

“It’s really about having a certain stature of a leader, someone who has the full complement of skills to grow the business the way we’d like to see it over the long term,” she said. “There’s a wonderful magic about Tom; he brings a track record in primetime entertainment programming that works in the market.”

Gutteridge founded and ran U.K. production company Mentorn, which he sold in 2000. Before that, he was an exec at the BBC.

Fremantle’s North American operations had been overseen by entertainment prexy David Lyle and chief operating officer Cecile Frot-Coutaz. Both will report to Gutteridge.

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