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Donald Trump’s days in the Apprentice boardroom may be long gone, but the former host still has ties to the series. The president-elect has retained his executive producer credit on the reality competition, one that will see him paid as a profit participant in the franchise.
Trump’s camp confirmed the news Thursday, with a following statement coming to The Hollywood Reporter from transition spokeswoman Hope Hicks: “Mr. Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett. Additional details regarding his business interests will be shared December 15th.”
Trump said in late November he planned on leaving his business “in total” for his children to run so he could focus on the presidency. He also said he would explain his plan for this transition during a Dec. 15 news conference.
The president-elect, of course, will no longer appear on the series. That ship sailed when he announced his candidacy for president in 2015. He was replaced by new host Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will topline all eight episodes of the MGM Television-produced Celebrity Apprentice when it returns to NBC on Jan. 2.
NBC will not be the one paying Trump his per-episode fee, the sum of which is not yet known. That will come from MGM Television, which now counts Apprentice creator Burnett as its president. As the executive producer credits roll, per a story first reported by Variety, Trump’s name will appear after Burnett’s and before Schwarzenegger’s.
It’s a precarious position for both media companies, having the next president of the United States as a profiting producer on a Big Four reality show, though the fact that the franchise is owned by MGM does put a bit of a wall between Trump and NBC.
The history of NBC “ending its business relationship” with Trump is more complicated than just his ultimately successful bid for the presidency. The original cutting of ties came over what network press materials referred to as “derogatory statements” about Mexicans.
“To that end, the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants, which are part of a joint venture between NBC and Trump, will no longer air on NBC,” read the statement at the time. “In addition, as Mr. Trump has already indicated, he will not be participating in The Celebrity Apprentice on NBC. Celebrity Apprentice is licensed from Mark Burnett’s United Artists Media Group [now MGM] and that relationship will continue.”
It had been assumed, in the run-up to the return of Celebrity Apprentice, that Trump would not get an executive producer credit — since he has never technically been billed as a co-creator.
On Friday, adviser Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s decision, telling CNN’s New Day that “presidents have a right to do things in their spare time.”
“He’s a very transparent guy,” she said of Trump. “Everyone can see what he’s doing, and the fact is that he is conferring with all types of experts who tell him what he can do and not do as president of the United States. If this is one of the approved activities, then perhaps he will consider staying on.”
When pressed about Trump being taken away from his presidential duties to be involved in the show, Conway compared the time spent to President Obama’s golfing, something she had objected to in the past.
“Were we so concerned about the hours and hours and hours spent on the golf course of the current president? I mean presidents have a right to do things in their spare time, in their leisure time,” she said.
When asked about Trump taking a profit or salary from his role, Conway said she hadn’t discussed that with Trump directly. Watch the clip below.
Kellyanne Conway on Trump remaining Celebrity Apprentice EP: Were we so concerned about hours Obama spent golfing? https://t.co/FIjN72qptX
— New Day (@NewDay) December 9, 2016
Dec. 9, 11:15 a.m. ET: Updated with Conway on CNN.
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