Burns, who 17 years ago co-founded Rooster Teeth and served as its longtime creative director, announced his departure from WarnerMedia-owned RT on Thursday in a tweet, linking to a new website, burnie.com.
“[A]s I set out on this new journey with my family and two cats at my side, that means my time walking the halls here at Rooster Teeth has come to an end,” Burns wrote in a message on his website. “As some of you have predicted over the past year, my steady move away from a public life was in preparation for this change.”
According to Burns, he is currently working on a first-look agreement with Rooster Teeth, “which will enable me to incubate my own projects and then present them to the company for possible development.”
Burns was one of the founding members of Rooster Teeth in 2003 in Austin, Texas. He wrote that he “will be moving out of this city that I may always call ‘home’ to begin a grand new adventure in a life overseas.” He didn’t say where he is moving but said that he and his wife, Ashley, began planning the move more than two years ago.
“It is difficult to leave my home country during such a tumultuous time. We believe in the strength and the promise of this nation as much as ever,” Burns wrote. “We look forward to returning to a country that has made many long overdue changes to benefit all of its citizens.” (Burns didn’t respond to a request for more information.)
His exit from the digital-media and fandom company comes after a series of major changes at Rooster Teeth under the purview of Otter Media, a division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia. The telco assumed full ownership of Rooster Teeth following its buyout of Otter from Chernin Group in 2018.
Last fall, Rooster Teeth laid off 13% of its staff and shook up the senior leadership team: TV veteran Jordan Levin came in as general manager as part of a reorg in which Burns and co-founders Matt Hullum and Geoff Ramsey took on new creative roles at the company. With that change, Burns shifted from serving as Rooster Teeth’s chief creative officer into an executive producer role to lead “high-profile projects” across the company.
“All of us at Rooster Teeth are very excited for Burnie and his family’s new adventure,” Levin said in a statement provided to Variety. “Burnie is a visionary and we look forward to his new ideas continuing to energize this unique company that he and his founding partners built. We are thankful for his continued passion and enthusiasm for Rooster Teeth.”
In his message about leaving Rooster Teeth, Burns said, “I want to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who supported me in my career at RT.” He offered special thanks to Otter Media CEO Tony Goncalves and Levin, “who has RT moving in incredible new directions.”
Burns has had a hand in numerous Rooster Teeth productions. He co-created and executive produced the company’s seminal “Red vs. Blue” sci-fi spoof. Burns also was an EP on Rooster Teeth’s anime-style “RWBY”; “Achievement Hunter”; “Camp Camp”; and animated series “Gen:Lock” starring Michael B. Jordan.
He also was a cast member on CBS’s “The Amazing Race” in Season 28 in 2016 with Ashley Jenkins (then his girlfriend). Burns holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from UT Austin.
“Starting this company and growing it in the early years were some of the hardest but greatest moments of my life,” Burns said in the statement on his site. “The constant camaraderie of Gus [Sorola], Geoff, and Matt always made the impossible seem achievable; I could not have asked for better companions on this journey.”