After 34 years, WME partner Mark Itkin — considered the doyen of syndication and unscripted representation — has announced his retirement from the agency business. He will continue with the company through 2015. His plans beyond that are unclear but Itkin, who is well respected in the TV community, still may stay involved in the entertainment industry in some way.
For the last few years, Itkin had been co-running WME’s unscripted department with partners Lance Klein, Sean Perry and Jon Rosen who will continue to do so.
Regarded as one of the architects of the modern syndication model and the proliferation of the non-scripted genre, Itkin, who came from the WMA side of WME, is responsible for bringing to the screen many popular and influential shows. The list of series he packaged include “The Real World,” “Deal or No Deal,” “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “Project Runway,” “People’s Court,” “The Ricki Lake Show,” and “American Gladiators.”
Itkin is also was among the pioneers of importing non-scripted international formats to the U.S. and played a key role in setting up “Big Brother,” “Fear Factor,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” and “The Biggest Loser.”
In 2006 Itkin was instrumental in pairing Tyler Perry with independent syndicator Debmar-Mercury for Perry’s sitcom “House of Payne.” Now commonly referred to as the 10-90 model, Itkin was part of the team that invented the business template that allows greater creative control and financial upside for television creators.
“Mark is a true visionary,” said WME | IMG Co-CEOs Ariel Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. “His passion for television, arts and pop culture has led to some of the most groundbreaking programming of all time. He is the definition of a trailblazer, and we are grateful for his many contributions to our company and the industry.”
Said Itkin, “I have had an incredible run with the William Morris Agency and now WME over the past 34 years. It’s been a thrill to work with the many talented creators and colleagues over the course of my career, and I feel fortunate to have had a front row seat on the company’s amazing journey.”
Among Itkin’s many fans in the industry is Mike Darnell, Warner Bros. TV’s president of unscripted and alternative and former long-time head of reality at Fox.
“Mark is simply the best in the business…that rare mixture of being extraordinarily good at his job…and a wonderful and loyal friend to the hundreds of clients he has had over the years,” Darnell said. “He has also accomplished the seemingly impossible…being a pioneer in the unscripted arena…and then managing to go out at the top of his game 34 years later. Personally I wish he would never leave.”
There has been a changing of the guard in the unscripted agency business, with Itkin’s departure following the recent exit of another veteran, Greg Lipstone, who left ICM Partners to run All3Media America.