Michael R. Burns
Michael Burns (born August 21, 1958) is an American entertainment executive and Vice Chairman of Lionsgate, a global content leader that is home to The Hunger Games, Twilight and Divergent film franchises as well as more than 30 television shows on 20 different networks, including such iconic series as Mad Men, Weeds, Nurse Jackie and Orange is the New Black. Burns joined the Lionsgate Board of Directors in 1999 and became Vice Chairman of the studio in March 2000. During his 14-year tenure, Lionsgate has grown from a fledging independent studio into a $4 billion market valued, diversified global entertainment company. Burns and his partner, Lionsgate Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer, have increased the Company’s revenues 15 times over and positioned Lionsgate as an innovator in the digital space.
Burns was born into an Irish-American family in Long Branch, New Jersey, on August 21, 1958. His father was an advertising executive and World War II combat veteran who landed on Iwo Jima. Burns’ family moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, where he was raised. After surviving high school there, he went to Arizona State University, graduating with a B.S. degree in 1980. He received his M.B.A. degree from the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and recently joined the Anderson School’s distinguished Board of Visitors.
Burns began his career as a sales representative for IBM, where he won recognition as a performance leader. He subsequently served for 18 years as a Wall Street executive, joining Shearson/American Express in 1985, where he first became acquainted with longtime friend Jamie Dimon (the firm became Shearson Lehman Bros. in 1990). He was named to a series of progressively responsible executive positions during his nine-year tenure at Shearson, becoming a vice president at the age of 26 and a senior vice president at 29. He then joined Prudential Securities as a managing director at the age of 32, serving as head of Prudential’s Los Angeles investment banking office, where he specialized in raising equity within the media and entertainment industry.
Burns was recruited to join the Board of Directors of Lionsgate, an independent studio known for art house successes such as Gods and Monsters, Affliction and The Red Violin, in 1999. He and longtime friend Jon Feltheimer, a former Sony Pictures and New World Entertainment executive who Burns met when he was one of New World’s preferred investment bankers, orchestrated a $33 million preferred equity financing in December 1999. The financing included Burns, Feltheimer, Capital Research media investor Gordy Crawford, Fidelity Investments, Microsoft co-founder and financier Paul Allen, Jamie Dimon, Scandinavian Broadcasting CEO Harry Sloan and Telemunchen Chairman and CEO Herbert Kloiber.
Following the recapitalization, Feltheimer and Burns formally joined Lionsgate as Chief Executive Officer and Vice Chairman, respectively. Their core strategy was to build the studio into the dominant content player in the independent space while remaining agnostic to distribution platform, acquire libraries with the breadth and scope to generate evergreen revenue and free cash flow and focus on large audience niches that Lionsgate could reach with branded content and targeted marketing.
Lionsgate soon generated a string of fiercely independent hits such as Monster’s Ball, which earned a Best Actress Academy Award for Halle Berry in 2002, Fahrenheit 9/11, the highest-grossing documentary film of all time, Crash, which surprised the Hollywood community by winning three Oscars, including Best Picture, in 2006, and Saw, acquired for $1 million from 90 seconds of video and a script, which went on to become the highest-grossing horror franchise of all time, generating $860 million at the worldwide box office.
As Lionsgate continued to grow, it listed on the New York Stock Exchange in August 2004 and diversified into television production and distribution as well as investments in branded channels (Epix, TVGN, a 50/50 venture with CBS Corporation, and the Celestial Tiger platform in Asia) and online digital media platforms. The Company grew and diversified its business through a series of strategic and accretive acquisitions including Trimark Holdings (2000), Artisan Entertainment (2003), Redbus Film Distributors, subsequently renamed Lionsgate UK (2005), the Debmar-Mercury television syndication company (2006), TV Guide Network (2009) and Summit Entertainment (2012).
During Burns’ 14-year tenure at Lionsgate, the Company has grown from $180 million to more than $2.6 billion in revenue and increased its market capitalization from $80 million to nearly $4 billion. Lionsgate today includes the global blockbuster Hunger Games, Twilight and Divergent franchises, which have collectively grossed more than $5 billion at the worldwide box office, iconic television series such as Mad Men, which won four consecutive Best Drama Emmys, and the breakthrough hit Orange is the New Black, renewed for a third season on Netflix even before the start of its second season, as well as a 15,000-title motion picture and television library.
In a January 2014 story entitled “A Star is Born” chronicling Lionsgate’s rise, The Economist proclaimed that “Hollywood has a new star studio with a different approach to the film business,” reporting that “Lionsgate has achieved a level of success no one predicted.” Two months later, the German media outlet Der Spiegel hailed Lionsgate as “the greatest success story in Hollywood,” noting that it is the “only studio amongst the old guard that wasn’t founded during the silent movie era.”
Mr. Burns was a co-founder and Chairman of Novica.com and a co-founder of the Hollywood Stock Exchange. He has been profiled or featured in such varied major media outlets as Barron’s, Business Week, CBS Market Watch, The Economist, The New York Times, The Financial Times of London and The Wall Street Journal. He is a frequent guest on CNBC’s “Fast Money” segment, where his 2010 debate with corporate activist Carl Icahn is renowned within the financial community. Mr. Burns was honored by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance at its 2013 pre-Academy Awards Oscar Wilde event. A moderate Republican, he is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Newsmax.
Burns was married to actress Lori Loughlin for seven years from 1989-1996. He married actress Pell James in 2006, with whom he has three sons. He is reputed to be a good dancer.
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- UCLA Anderson Board of Visitors
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- Michael Burns Bloomberg Businessweek Profile
- Lionsgate Funding Universe History
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- The 78th Academy Awards Nominees and Winners
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- Mad Men Emmys
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- Pell James, Michael Burns