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ASU alumnus helped build Lionsgate Entertainment into global content powerhouse

portrait of michael burns

Michael Burns, vice chairman of Lionsgate Entertainment Corp.

March 08, 2017

Editor’s Note: This story is one in a series of profiles of individuals being honored as part of the ASU Alumni Association’s 2017 Founders’ Day celebration on March 16. Visit the Alumni Association’s website to read the entire series.

Michael R. Burns ‘80 B.S. is being honored at Founders’ Day 2017 with the Alumni Achievement Award for his role in building Lionsgate into a multi-billion dollar global content leader. Since becoming vice chairman of Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. in March 2000, he has played an integral role in building the company into a $6 billion operation with a reputation for innovation. He recently helped spearhead Lionsgate’s $4.4 billion acquisition of Starz, the biggest deal in the company’s history, as the studio continues to grow into a diversified global content platform.

Lionsgate’s portfolio of businesses features a film slate that has averaged nearly $2 billion at the box office each of the past four years, driven by the critically acclaimed “La La Land,” which won a record-breaking seven Golden Globes and was nominated for a record-tying 14 Academy Awards, and the blockbuster Hunger Games and Twilight saga franchises. One of the largest independent television businesses in the world, Lionsgate’s television slate encompasses nearly 90 series on 40 different networks, including the ground-breaking “Orange is the New Black,” the fan favorite “Nashville,” the acclaimed drama “The Royals,” the award-winning dramedy “Casual” and the breakout success “Greenleaf.”

In addition to his leadership of Lionsgate’s corporate management team, Burns has played a key role in the acquisition, production, and distribution of some of Lionsgate’s most successful films, including the Academy Award-winning Best Picture “Crash,” the Academy Award-winning “Monster’s Ball” and the Oscar-nominated “Precious.”

Prior to joining Lionsgate, Burns served for nine years as managing director and head of Prudential Securities’ Los Angeles investment banking office and nine years at Shearson/American Express (now Morgan Stanley) in New York and Los Angeles.

Two of ASU’s top academic administrators put Burns’ and Lionsgate Entertainment’s breathtaking achievements into perspective.

Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, said, “Under Burns’ guidance, this one-time small company has gained entrance into the league of major studios like Warner Brothers, Disney, Universal and 20th Century Fox — doing so without a backlot of their own and with a fraction of the employees found at a major media company.”

“Michael Burns exemplifies a leadership style which is on par with our vision for the New American University,” said Amy Hillman, dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business. “He demonstrates an ambition for innovation rather than a reliance on tradition.”

Burns has been featured in major media outlets from CNBC to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and he is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post and Newsmax. Burns graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University and received his MBA from the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA, where he serves on the distinguished Board of Visitors. He joined the Hasbro Board of Directors in December 2014.

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