Participant Media CEO gets alumni award

CLU to honor Jim Berk at 'The Fifth Estate' screening

A lifelong commitment to education, social change, entertainment and business leadership has guided Jim Berk throughout his varied career.


Photo: Mark Leibowitz

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Oct. 15, 2013) California Lutheran University will present its Outstanding Alumni Award to Participant Media CEO Jim Berk at a private pre-release screening of his company’s latest film, “The Fifth Estate,” on Oct. 17.

A lifelong commitment to education, social change, entertainment and business leadership has guided Berk throughout his varied career. He received a master’s degree in education from CLU in 1985 and had great success as a teacher and administrator before going into the entertainment industry. Originally a music teacher at Carson High School, he went on to launch the largest comprehensive performing arts magnet in the western United States and to become the youngest principal in the history of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Berk later became the founding executive of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Foundation. As the president and CEO of Hard Rock Cafe International, he doubled the number of restaurants, created a music label, produced a critically acclaimed TV music series and built live music venues, hotels and the first NBA City. He also served as president, CEO and board director for Fairfield Communities Inc., a vacation ownership and resort company, and chairman and CEO of Gryphon Colleges Corp.

Los Angeles-based Participant Media, which Berk has led as CEO since 2006, focuses on socially relevant and commercially viable feature films, documentaries, television productions, publications and digital content. Its films include “The Help,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Lincoln,” “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” “Charlie Wilson’s War” and “The Kite Runner.” “The Fifth Estate,” which opens Oct. 18, is a thriller based on the battle between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg after they gained access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history.

Berk’s responsibilities at Participant include content, overall strategy, enhancing social action and advocacy capabilities, and overseeing media investments and acquisitions. During his tenure, Participant expanded its profile from film company to integrated media entity. In 2009, Berk established a digital network with socially relevant content called In August, the company launched a television channel called Pivot targeting the millennial generation. This year, more than 15 million people will take action via Participant’s films, television productions and campaigns.

The CLU alumnus also serves on the boards of Me to We, Cineflix Media, the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, and the USC Rossier School of Education.