March 20, 2012 4:10pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Mark Burnett Settles $70 Million Legal Battle With Former Partner (Exclusive)
Survivor producer Mark Burnett is putting the finishing touches on a settlement of the long-running and nasty legal battle with his former business partner over profits from the reality TV mogul's empire.
First filed back in July 2008, the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court claimed that Conrad Riggs is owed more than $70 million for his work with Burnett, including helping Burnett sell Survivor to CBS and The Apprentice to NBC. Riggs worked for Disney in the 1990s and initially helped Burnett get meetings to pitch his TV ideas. The two became partners, with Burnett allegedly promising Riggs 10 percent of revenue from his company during the nine years they worked together. But the suit alleged that Burnett stopped paying Riggs in 2007, when Riggs refused to sign a formal contract containing terms that deviated from what he believed he was owed.
The case took a strange turn in 2009, when Burnett alleged that Riggs was acting as his unlicensed talent agent, thus running afoul of California's Talent Agencies Act, which requires those performing agent duties to register with the state and adhere to certain fee restraints. The state's Labor Commissioner ruled in May 2011 that the TAA didn't apply to Burnett's situation, kicking the case back to the state court, where a September trial was scheduled.
The case has been one of the most-watched pieces of litigation in Hollywood, given its longevity and the potential to expose the financial success of one of the reality TV business' most successful players. THR cited the case in our recent look at some of the big-ticket trials scheduled in Los Angeles in 2012.
But now the case is settling, with a formal announcement expected in the next few days. Sources say terms of the deal will not be released.
"Conrad's always had the most respect for Burnett," Riggs attorney Bart Williams tells THR. "He's proud of being part of the development of Mark Burnett Productions."
A call to Burnett attorney Mark Holscher was not immediately returned.