'Extreme Makeover,' 'Dating Naked' Creator Howard Schultz Dies at 61

Howard Schultz - P 2014
Eric Charbonneau

Howard Schultz - P 2014

The producer and Lighthearted Entertainment CEO died Monday while on vacation in Maui with his family

Howard Schultz, the veteran unscripted TV producer who created the long-running reality hit Extreme Makeover, has died. He was 61.

The Lighthearted Entertainment CEO, who executive produced the successful new VH1 reality series Dating Naked, died Monday while on vacation with his family in Maui, Hawaii, publicist Zach Rosenfield said. The cause of death was not immediately known.

After executive producing Studs for Fox, Schultz founded Lighthearted in 1992 and executive produced Extreme Makeover for ABC as well as NEXT! for MTV and The Moment of Truth for Fox. He also was the driving force behind the 1980s' NBC hit Real People.

Dating Naked was recently renewed for a second season. Lighthearted also recently developed and executive produced MTV’s Are You the One? (also renewed for a second season) and VH1’s Bye Felicia.

“VH1 is heartbroken to hear of Howard’s passing,” the network said in a statement. “Howard was a wonderful man, a true partner and a visionary producer. We will miss him.”

This month, Schultz expanded Lighthearted’s ownership group by making executive vp Rob LaPlante and vp Jeff Spangler co-owners in the company. 

“Beyond Howard’s incredible television acumen existed a man who truly cared for everyone he encountered in a way unique from anyone I have ever met,” LaPlante said in a statement. “TV has lost a visionary mind, and we have lost a mentor in life.”

Lighthearted’s name was derived from the lyrics of the Van Morrison song “I Forgot That Love Existed.”

Extreme Makeover, which premiered on ABC in 2002, has been seen in more than 100 countries around the world. Meanwhile, NEXT! has aired in more than 60 countries and The Moment of Truth in more than 40.

Schultz, who attended the University of Colorado, began his television career at WLS-TV in Chicago and quickly won two local Emmys for producing a live, morning talk/entertainment show and a late-night show.

He moved to California and developed what would become the reality hit Real People, which profiled regular folks with unique occupations or hobbies and ran for 5 1/2 years.

In 1991, Schultz joined Fox Television and developed and served as executive producer of the syndicated show Studs, a raunchier version of the dating show Love Connection and ratings hit.

“It became a cultural phenomenon,” Schultz told Coloradan Magazine a few years ago. “Johnny Carson and David Letterman were doing jokes about it. Studs changed my life because it allowed me to start my own production company.”

Other Lighthearted Entertainment shows to air under his watch included Bedroom Buddies, Goodnight America, Jones & Jury, The Smarter Sex, The George & Alana Show, The Big Date, Happy Hour and SexWars.

The Hollywood Reporter picked Schultz as one of the top 50 forces in reality TV in 2008, and Los Angeles Magazine named him one of the city’s most influential people in 2003.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4