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'Apprentice' Producer Settles Lawsuits

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A man who sued Mark Burnett and the producers of "The Apprentice," claiming they stole his idea for the show, has settled his claims.

Lawyers for Burnett and plaintiff Mark Bethea both confirm that a settlement has been reached. As is usually the case with such settlements, no one is saying who got what. Bethea's attorney, Ronald Makarem, does say that both sides were "satisfied" with the outcome, according to news reports.

Bethea sued Burnett in both California and federal court in 2004, claiming that Burnett had stolen his idea for an unscripted TV series called "CEO." The federal suit also named "Apprentice" star/executive producer Donald Trump and NBC, which airs the show, as defendants, since they had profited from the show.

In the suits, Bethea claimed he registered the idea for a business-themed reality show with the Writers Guild of America in 2000, then pitched it to Burnett and producing partner Conrad Riggs the following year. Burnett disputed Bethea's assertion, saying the idea for "The Apprentice" came to him in 2002 while he was working on an installment of "Survivor."

The settlement precludes a trial in state court that was scheduled to begin next week. Bethea was appealing a summary judgment against him in the federal case.

"The Apprentice" debuted in early 2004 to big ratings on NBC. It has faded considerably since the highs of its first two cycles and has averaged about 10.4 million viewers for the network this season. A sixth edition of the show is scheduled for midseason next year.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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