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Mark Burnett files a countersuit against former partner Conrad Riggs

By Christopher Rocchio, 07/31/2008 

Mark Burnett is apparently trying to turn the tables on his former business partner.

The Apprentice and Survivor producer filed a countersuit against Conrad Riggs in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday that accuses his longtime business manager of partaking in schemes to further enrich himself despite already being compensated for his work, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

"Mark did not seek this lawsuit," Burnett's attorney, Steven A. Marenberg, told the Times.  "He doesn't believe that lawsuits are the best way to solve problems.

Burnett's countersuit comes three weeks after Riggs initially sued Burnett, claiming he is owed more than $70 million for his contributions to their joint efforts. 

Riggs' lawsuit alleges that the pair produced more than a dozen television projects and that Burnett broke a long-standing agreement to pay Riggs and his Cloudbreak Entertainment Inc. production company 10% of Burnett's profits.

However in his countersuit Burnett claims he did provide Riggs 10% of his net earnings on successful television projects that Riggs negotiated on his behalf.  Burnett stated Riggs received more than $25 million during their decade-long relationship.

"Even though Riggs has already been paid the staggering sum of more than $25 million by Burnett, Riggs seeks still more," the countersuit reads, according to the Times. "Riggs now contends, without any basis, that he is entitled to payments on projects for which his services were never requested and on which he rendered none."

In addition, Burnett claims that Riggs tried to circumvent Burnett to get television networks to pay additional producer fees directly to Riggs rather than Mark Burnett Productions

"The notion that Mark Burnett was ignorant of the flow of money within his own company, or that he was somehow bamboozled by Conrad Riggs, is laughable." Riggs' attorney, Bart H. Williams, told the Times.

Burnett's countersuit also alleges Riggs' "overreaching" exposed Burnett to "substantial liability and... caused Burnett to expend substantial attorney fees and settlement costs," which the Times reported was a reference to an apparently large settlement that the two paid a Los Angeles man who had pitched Riggs on a show format "strikingly similar" to that of The Apprentice.

In his lawsuit, Burnett also accuses Riggs of attempting to take credit for creating Destination: Space, a never-produced reality series that would have sent ordinary people into outer space. 

When Riggs filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the series, he listed Cloudbreak Entertainment as the creator, not Mark Burnett Productions, according to the Times.  However Williams countered that Riggs did create the show's concept.

While Burnett's countersuit doesn't specify an amount for damages, the Times reported it does seek "compensatory and punitive relief and a declaration that Riggs has no interest in Burnett's companies or any right to additional payments."

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