Name at birth: James Mark Burnett
Mark Burnett is the producer of Survivor
, The Apprentice
and other hit TV shows of the 21st century. Mark Burnett was born in London and enlisted in the British Army at age 18, joining a paratroop unit and seeing action in the Falkland Islands and in Northern Ireland. Leaving the service in 1982, he landed in America and found work as a nanny with a family in Malibu, California. A few years later he began selling T-shirts on Venice Beach and discovered he had a knack for sales, leading him to create his own marketing firm. His career path changed in 1991 when he and four partners took part in a French adventure and endurance race called the Raid Gauloises; sensing an opportunity, he bought the American rights and created the show Eco-Challenge
. The series ran on MTV, the Discovery Channel and other cable networks from 1995-2002. Having made his name as a TV producer, he bought the rights to a British reality show and turned it into Survivor
, which debuted on CBS in 2000. The show featured 16 contestants battling it out for a million dollars on a desert island; it was an immediate hit and became a staple of the CBS schedule for the next 15 years. Burnett followed Survivor
with more hit shows, including The Apprentice
(which created Donald Trump
’s signature line, “You’re fired”), the singing competition The Voice
, the entrepreneurial pitch show Shark Tank
, and the quiz show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
Burnett also has a spiritual side: he produced The Bible
, a hit miniseries on The History Channel in 2013, and followed it with the feature film Son of God
(2014) and the TV miniseries The Dovekeepers
(2015). His books include Dare to Succeed
(2001) and Jump In!