8 MARK BUR­NETT & ROMA DOWNEY

Essex Life - - RICHEST 50 -

Me­dia

2018: £390m 2017: £390m (9th)

Mark Bur­nett, the Es­sex-born re­al­ity TV supremo of Hol­ly­wood, is reck­oned to be one of Don­ald Trump’s best friends. In­deed he de­vised the hit TV show The Ap­pren­tice which pro­pelled Trump to star­dom and ul­ti­mately per­haps the White House. Yet it has not been all plain sail­ing for Bur­nett, who is com­ing un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure to re­veal whether there are tapes of Trump pre­par­ing for the show us­ing racially deroga­tory lan­guage. Bur­nett showed up in Hol­ly­wood more than 30 years ago with just $200 to his name. Ed­u­cated at the War­ren School in Rom­ford, Bur­nett fought in the 1982 Falk­lands con­flict. Over the years the former para­trooper dreamt up re­al­ity TV hits in­clud­ing Sur­vivor, Shark Tank and The Voice. He and his Ir­ish ac­tress wife Roma Downey are the driv­ing force be­hind The Bi­ble and other faith-based pro­grammes. Downey also now has her own star on Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard. Hol­ly­wood stu­dio MGM spent $343m in Septem­ber 2015 to take a 55% stake in their TV pro­duc­tion com­pany and a few months later the pair ex­changed their re­main­ing stake for 1.3m MGM shares. That stake should now be worth around £94m. In De­cem­ber 2015 Bur­nett signed a five-year con­tract to be­come pres­i­dent of MGM Tele­vi­sion while Downey be­came chief con­tent of­fi­cer of the faith and fam­ily di­vi­sion. She and her hus­band last year over­saw the $100m pro­duc­tion of Ben-Hur, a mod­ern retelling of the re­li­gious epic. De­spite the lower value of their MGM stake, we leave the Mal­ibu-based cou­ple at £390m this year. The cou­ple last year bid $1.5m for a work by the Swiss artist Urs Fis­cher at Sean Penn’s fundrais­ing event for the hur­ri­caner­av­aged is­land of Haiti.

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