Entertainment marketing firm Madison Road has filed a $20 million countersuit against two subsidiaries of Mark Burnett Prods., accusing the “The Apprentice” producer of trying to tarnish its reputation.
Suit is in response to one filed last week by Burnett, who alleged that Madison Road double-dealed and overcharged companies when setting up product placement pacts for “The Apprentice.”
In a strongly worded rebuttal, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Madison Road said it would “not succumb to Burnett’s bullying tactics.”
“This action arises out of the sheer greed and arrogance of Mark Burnett, the 800-pound gorilla show (who) believes that by making false, fabricated, defamatory and malicious accusations about (Madison Road) and then spreading those lies to third parties, he can squash the competition,” the complaint said.
In the past, Madison Road has paid Burnett for rights to secure sponsors for “The Apprentice.” Company has brought Procter & Gamble, Mars and others to the show, where their brands are prominently featured in the reality skein’s competitions.
In his suit, Burnett accused Madison Road of charging advertisers as much as 250% more than Burnett’s fees and falsely representing its relationship with Burnett and “The Apprentice.”
Madison Road denied the 250% claim, and said it hadn’t misled potential “Apprentice” sponsors.
In the suit, Madison Road alleged Burnett timed his lawsuit to the launch of his own inhouse branded entertainment division and was looking to “undermine his competition.”
Madison Road also alleged Burnett looked to use the company as a “scapegoat” when advertisers wouldn’t accept an increase in sponsorship fees on “The Apprentice” — which the suit puts at $5 million. (Placement deals for “The Apprentice” have reportedly previously hovered between $2 million and $3.5 million).
Madison Road, run by Tom Mazza and Jak Severson, has also worked on shows such as “America’s Next Top Model” and “Bernie Mac.” Company hired a programming exec last fall to branch into creating its own unscripted TV formats.
An attorney for Burnett’s companies declined comment.