UPDATED with VH1 statement: Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Lighthearted Entertainment who created and executive produced Dating Naked, Extreme Makeover, The Moment Of Truth and other reality shows, died unexpectedly Monday while vacationing with his family in Hawaii. He was 61.
Schultz formed Lighthearted Entertainment in 1992, which most recently developed and executive produced Are You The One (MTV), Dating Naked (VH1), and Bye Felicia (VH1). Other shows include Next, Bedroom Buddies, Goodnight America, Jones & Jury, The Smarter Sex, The George And Alana Show and The Big Date, which ran for two years on the USA Network. Lighthearted also produced the musical variety series Happy Hour, SexWars, a magic special for SciFi Network and two specials for USA.
Earlier this December, Schultz expanded Lighthearted’s ownership group by making EVP Rob LaPlante and VP Jeff Spangler co-owners in the company. They will continue to carry the Lighthearted banner.
Just last month, Schultz sold to VH1 the reality competition series Twinning (working title); the 10-episode first season is set to premiere in the summer. The project, created and produced by Lighthearted, will feature 12 sets of twins going through challenges that will test all those reports that identical twins finish each other’s sentences, feel each other’s physical pain, date the same people, etc. Schultz was set to serve as executive producer, along with LaPlante and Spangler.
“Beyond Howard’s incredible television acumen existed a man who truly cared for everyone he encountered in a way unique from anyone I have ever met,” LaPlante said. “TV has lost a visionary mind, and we have lost a mentor in life.”
“VH1 is heartbroken to hear of Howard’s passing. Howard was a wonderful man, a true partner and a visionary producer. We will miss him,” the network said in a statement.
Schultz began his career at ABC’s Chicago affiliate WLS-TV, where he won his first local Emmy for his working on a live, morning/talk entertainment show. He followed that with a second Emmy the next year for a late-night show that aired in Chicago. Schultz later moved to Los Angeles, where he developed the NBC primetime hit Real People. In 1991, Schultz joined Fox Television, where he developed and served as executive producer of the breakthrough syndication hit Studs, a show that sparked a new genre of TV known as relationship shows.
Details of memorial services are pending.