Chief Executive Officer
Jim Berk is Chief Executive Officer of Participant Media, a Los Angeles-based entertainment company that focuses on socially relevant, commercially viable feature films, documentaries and television, as well as publishing and digital media. Jim is responsible for leading the company’s day to day operations, content, overall strategy and expanding the company’s reach beyond motion pictures into other forms of entertainment, extending the brand identity, enhancing social action and advocacy capabilities and overseeing all media investments and acquisitions.
During Jim’s tenure, Participant expanded its reach from a pure film company to an integrated media entity. In 2007, Participant made an equity investment in Summit Entertainment, which was acquired by Lionsgate in 2012, and Me to We, a Toronto-based social enterprise promoting a socially responsible, globally-focused approach to living for young people who want to help change the world through their daily choices. In 2008, Participant teamed with Imagenation abu dhabi to create a fund to finance 15-18 feature films over a five-year period. In 2009 Participant launched TakePart.com, a social action website and the hub of an extensive network of cause-related sites with content covering a broad array of social issues, combined with ways for individuals to take action. In 2012 Participant acquired an equity position in Cineflix Media, a television production and distribution company, and announced the Summer 2013 launch of a new television network targeting the millennial generation, Pivot. In 2013, Participant announced the launch of a five year rotating fund with Doha Film Institute (DFI) to finance 12-16 films over a five-year period, beginning January 2014, and a five year agreement to develop and co-finance 10-12 Spanish-language films with three premiere Latin American production companies, Mexico’s Canana, Chile’s Fabula and Colombia’s Dynamo.
Prior to Participant, Jim was Chairman and CEO of Gryphon Colleges Corporation, where he was responsible for the formation, platform acquisition and establishment of a private company operating for-profit post education schools. Before Gryphon, Jim served as President and CEO and Board Director for Fairfield Communities, Inc., America’s largest independent vacation ownership and resort companies. He oversaw all aspects of the publicly traded company’s operations including new resort development, sales and marketing, financial operations, consumer financing and resort management services as well as strategy, branding and mergers and acquisitions.
Prior to Fairfield, Jim was President and CEO of Hard Rock Cafe International, a global entertainment and leisure company in which Hard Rock Cafe is the core business. Jim focused on food quality, increased service standards, refurbished the estate and modernized retail operations while expanding to 104 Cafes in 29 countries. During his tenure he led the creation of a music label, critically acclaimed weekly music TV series, live music venues, hotels and the NBA City. Jim also served as CEO of the Hard Rock Foundation, which provided education, social action grants and thousands of hours of employee volunteer services to local charities and schools. He was served as a member of the Executive Board and a Divisional Managing Director of Hard Rock Café’s parent company, Rank Group Plc. Prior to joining Hard Rock, Jim was the founding executive of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Foundation. Creating a non-profit, entertainment production company, he produced live concerts, festivals, television programs and records, and led the creation of national programming including GRAMMY Showcase, GRAMMY in the Schools, GRAMMY Festivals and GRAMMY Records.
Jim enjoyed similar success as the youngest principal in the history of the 725-school Los Angeles Unified School District, when he was appointed Principal of the Alexander Hamilton High Schools Complex in 1990. During his tenure, he increased the funding base, attendance improved from 72 to 94 percent and state assessment scores moved from the 34th to 81st percentile. Prior to his principalship, Jim founded the Hamilton Academy of Music in Los Angeles, creating the largest comprehensive performing arts magnet in the western United States. Jim instituted an interdisciplinary curriculum that linked academic studies with the arts that resulted in 96 percent of graduating seniors continuing on to higher education. His first job upon graduation – at the age of 21 – was as a music teacher at a public high school. There, at Carson High, he reopened the music department and built the program to one of the largest music programs in California.
Jim currently serves on the Boards of Me to We, Cineflix Media, The Documentary Channel, the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and the USC Rossier School of Education.