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Mark Burnett Named President of MGM Television

Mark Burnett has been named president of MGM Television and Digital Group and has signed a five-year contract.

MGM made the announcement Monday and disclosed that it has bought out the remaining 45%  interest that Burnett and Hearst Corp held in United Artists Media Group in deals worth $233 million total. Roma Khanna, who had run MGM Television for the past four years, is leaving the company.

Under the deal, Burnett will report directly to Gary Barber, chairman and CEO. Burnett’s and Roma Downey’s interests in United Artists Media Group will be absorbed under the MGM Television Group umbrella.

The deal comes 15 months after MGM acquired a 55% stake in the production companies jointly owned by Mark Burnett, Roma Downey and Hearst Entertainment. At that point, MGM revived the United Artists banner to house the investment with Burnett serving as CEO of United Artists Media Group to produce TV shows, films and digital content for a wide range of global platforms. Downey was named president of LightWorkers Media, the faith and family unit.

“Mark Burnett is one of the most successful producers in television and a highly sought-after executive in content creation,” Barber said in a statement issued Monday. “His leadership is the next step in our never-ending quest to expand and grow our television and digital businesses. Combining all of our TV content efforts under the purview of this unparalleled chief is incredibly exciting. Additionally, we believe this synergistic transaction will be very accretive to MGM.”

Burnett and Downey will exchange their 23% interest in UAMG for 1,337,360 shares of MGM stock valued at $90 per share or about $120 million. Hearst will receive $113.5 million in cash for their 22% interest.

The transaction is expected to close at the beginning of 2016 and was valued based upon the original deal parameters established when MGM acquired the initial 55% of UAMG in 2014.

The previously announced streaming channel will remain a separate entity controlled by its investors, Downey, Burnett, Hearst and MGM. Downey will serve as chief content officer in addition to her role as LightWorks president.

“Joining MGM under the incredible leadership of Gary Barber is an exciting new chapter of my television career,” said Burnett. “Demand for quality content is stronger than ever and the opportunities to grow our pipeline and develop projects from the wealth of Intellectual Property in the MGM and United Artists libraries are enormous. There is no better time to be creating premium content for distribution across multiple platforms. “

Downey added, “We have entered into an era where faith-based and family programming is experiencing a creative renaissance. I am so excited and grateful to head up the team at LightWorkers Media under MGM. This is an enthusiastic marketplace that inspires us every day to create and curate new, thoughtful and dynamic content for all screens in the distribution landscape.”

MGM also announced that Chris Ottinger has been promoted to president of worldwide television distribution & acquisitions for MGM, reporting directly to Barber. Steve Stark, MGM’s president of television development & production, will continue to oversee all scripted content and will report directly to Burnett in an expanded role.

John Bryan, MGM’s president of domestic television distribution, will continue in his role overseeing domestic distribution.

Burnett has had a long string of successes as a producer of reality series, including “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “Shark Tank,” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” He’s also recently been increasingly involved in faith-based productions, including 2013’s “The Bible,” which was a huge ratings hit for the History Channel. His most recent effort, “The Dovekeepers,” proved a relative disappointment for CBS.

Burnett’s partnership with MGM will prove a boost to the studio’s TV lineup. His library will add significant muscle to their current efforts, which include FX’s “Fargo” and MTV’s “Teen Wolf.”

Burnett and Downey also became involved with MGM on the movie side in 2014 when they joined MGM-Paramount’s “Ben-Hur,” set for release on Aug. 12. Burnett joined Sean Daniel (“The Mummy” franchise) and Joni Levin as a producer. Downey is an executive producer.

Sidley Austin LLP represented  Burnett and Roma Downey in MGM’s buyout.

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