Chief Executive Officer
Jim Berk is Chief Executive Officer of Participant Media, a global entertainment company founded in 2004 that focuses on socially relevant film, television, publishing and digital media. Berk is responsible for leading the company’s overall strategy and day-to-day operations, advocacy, strategic investments and acquisitions.
Participant has been involved in more than 55 films including An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting For Superman, The Help, Contagion and Lincoln. Since Berk joined in 2006, Participant has expanded its film slate; created a Spanish-language film label; launched a TV network, Pivot; launched and grown Participant’s web site, TakePart.com; and acquired a portfolio of media investments.
During Berk’s tenure, Participant expanded into a multi-platform media company. In 2009, Participant launched TakePart.com, a social action website and the hub of an extensive network of cause-related sites that now reaches approximately 10 million monthly visitors with socially relevant content and integrated calls to action. In 2013, the company launched a television network dedicated to reaching an audience of Millennials with content that sparks conversation and inspires change.
Under Berk’s leadership, Participant’s Social Action efforts have expanded in successful collaborations with hundreds of non-governmental organizations, government entities, schools, and more to launch campaigns around social issues associated with each of the company’s film and television properties.
Berk has led Participant’s strategic investments including a 2007 equity investment in Summit Entertainment, which was subsequently acquired by Lionsgate in 2012. In 2008, Participant teamed with Imagenation Abu Dhabi to create a fund to finance a slate of feature films. In 2012, Participant acquired an equity position in Cineflix Media, a television production and distribution company, and struck a multi-year agreement with Latin American production companies, to establish Participant PanAmerica to deliver films for the Spanish-language market. He also led and investment in Me to We, a Toronto-based social enterprise.
Prior to joining Participant Media, Berk was Chairman and CEO of Gryphon Colleges Corporation, where he was responsible for the formation of a private company operating for-profit, post-education schools. Before Gryphon, Berk served as President and CEO and Board Director for Fairfield Communities, Inc., America’s largest independent vacation ownership and resort company. 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.
Berk previously served as President and CEO of Hard Rock Cafe International, a global entertainment and leisure company in which Hard Rock Cafe is the core business. Berk 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. Berk 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, Berk 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.
Berk was 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 becoming principal, Berk founded the Hamilton Academy of Music in Los Angeles, creating the largest comprehensive performing arts magnet in the western United States. Berk 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.
Berk currently serves on the Boards of Evolution Media Partners, Me to We, Cineflix Media, and the USC Rossier School of Education. He is also the Chairman of the Board, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.