Burnett files state labor complaint

Times Staff Writer

Reality TV kingpin Mark Burnett is now trying to get the state labor commissioner to weigh in on his feud with longtime associate Conrad Riggs.

Burnett, producer of such hit reality television shows as “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” has filed a complaint with the California labor commissioner’s office, alleging that Riggs violated the arcane Talent Agencies Act.

Burnett contends that Riggs acted as his de facto agent by setting up meetings with television executives and negotiating contracts and licensing deals on behalf of Burnett, even though he was not a licensed talent agent.

Burnett further alleged that Riggs falsely claimed a 10% ownership interest in Burnett’s companies and improperly collected more than $1 million in payments.


“Riggs obtained these monies unlawfully and must return them,” the complaint stated.

The petition is unusual given that most complaints involving the Talent Agencies Act centered on disputes between actors and their agents, not individuals behind one of the most successful relationships in the TV industry.

Riggs’ attorneys called the complaint an “ill-conceived litigation” tactic, noting that Burnett had testified in a separate case that Riggs was not an agent for him or anyone else and that the two men had been business partners since 1998.

“The notion that it was Conrad Riggs’ job to find Mark Burnett work, and that Mark Burnett just figured that out, is ridiculous,” said Bart H. Williams, an attorney for Riggs.


Williams said the move was an attempt to stall the civil lawsuit that Riggs filed against Burnett last month. The suit accused Burnett of reneging on an agreement to pay Riggs and his company, Cloudbreak Entertainment, 10% of his net earnings.

In a countersuit, Burnett claimed that he did provide Riggs 10% of his net earnings on successful TV show projects that Riggs had negotiated on Burnett’s behalf as part of an oral agreement between the associates. He further claimed that Riggs tried to get TV networks to pay additional producer fees directly to Riggs rather than to Mark Burnett Productions.