Stephen M. Silverman
March 10, 2005 09:00 AM

Not one but two lawsuits have fanned the flames behind the scenes of NBC’s favorite employment show, The Apprentice.

In one legal action that reveals a lot of the backstage machinations of reality TV, Apprentice creator Mark Burnett has sued a Los Angeles company called Madison Road Entertainment, which deals in product placement.

According to legal papers filed March 3 and obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Burnett alleges that during the second and third seasons of The Apprentice Madison Road overcharged advertisers, sought “exorbitant” fees and kept money that rightly should have been his.

Six days later, this past Wednesday, Madison Road countersued, accusing Burnett of defamation and libel, as well as “sheer greed and arrogance.” It also turns around and blames Burnett for driving up product placement fees, to as high as $5 million. Madison Road seeks a minimum of $40 million in damages.

“When the market wouldn’t bear his fees he looked for a scapegoat,” Madison Road alleges in its suit.

Procter & Gamble, Levi Strauss and Mars were brought to Burnett by Madison Road, their countersuit claims.

In a separate legal action, a quadriplegic attorney who sued Burnett and Apprentice host Donald Trump has settled with the men after they agreed to make clear the program accepts applications from the disabled, the Associated Press reports.

James Schottel Jr., whose federal lawsuit called the show’s online application exclusionary and discriminatory, said Wednesday that producers agreed to insert a sentence into the show’s rules encouraging people with disabilities to audition.

Said Burnett: “It was never our intent to exclude from consideration persons with disabilities.”

As part of the deal, says AP, neither Mark Burnett Productions Inc. nor Trump Productions LLC admit any wrongdoing.

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