How Did I Get Here?

Mark Burnett

President of television and digital, MGM
  • Education
  • The Warren School, Romford, England, class of 1976
  • Redbridge Technical College, Ilford, England, class of 1978
  • Work Experience
  • 1978–82
    Section commander, British parachute regiment
  • 1982–83
    Housekeeper and nanny, Beverly Hills and Malibu, Calif.
  • 1984–91
    Insurance salesman, T-shirt salesman
  • 1991–2011
    President and chief executive officer, Mark Burnett Productions
  • 2011–14
    President and CEO, One Three Media
  • 2016–Present
    President of television and digital, MGM
  • Life Lessons
  • “I’d rather go for it than not have done it. Falling on my face is not painful to me.”
  • “Having the same sales pitch is stupid. Always adjust what you’re saying based on the person you’re hoping will give you their money.”
  • “Either you’re running away from pain or you’re running toward pleasure. Identify your internal drivers.”
  • In Utah during the 1995 filming of Eco-Challenge, the show that won Burnett his first Emmy
    “I was going to apply to Oxford or Cambridge for law and realized that I love the idea of high adventure.”
  • With Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone at NBC’s 2004-05 upfront pitch to advertisers
  • “I bought expensive designer T-shirts with slight damages for $2 each and sold them for $18.”
  • “When I got the green light for Survivor, I didn’t even have an island. I convinced Malaysia to give me free airline tickets, hotels, and a helicopter to look for an island. I found Pulau Tiga.”
  • On the set of Ben-Hur in Italy (second from left), with his wife, 2015
  • “A close friend said, ‘Nobody is going to watch the Bible on prime-time television. One hundred million people watched [my miniseries] The Bible. In Canada, head to head, The Bible beat hockey. I reedited it and made a film about Jesus, Son of God, and it made $68 million at the American box office. I love Jesus.”
  • As a member of the British Army’s parachute regiment, 1980
  • “I have service medals from Northern Ireland and the Falklands. You’re in an elite brotherhood. No one’s ever left behind, and you can rely on the people around you. I’ve tried to build that environment into my shows.”
  • “I was so bad at cleaning that they ended up hiring a lady to clean the house—including my room.”
  • “For The Apprentice, I needed someone who was already famous. From the beginning of his real estate career, Donald Trump was a media expert. He was great, I mean totally great, on TV.”
  • With the Donald during The Apprentice Season 5 finale. “Mark doesn’t talk about politics,” a publicist said when asked if Burnett supported Trump’s candidacy.
  • “Gary Barber, the chairman of MGM said, ‘We’ve greenlit Ben-Hur, and I’d like you and Roma [Downey, Burnett’s wife] to produce it.’ The movie is out Aug. 19.”