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A man claims he came up with the idea for the hit television reality show “The Apprentice” four years ago — even suggesting Donald Trump as its star — and then pitched the concept to the show’s production team, which rejected it. Mark Bethea, 43, filed a lawsuit Wednesday naming NBC Universal, Trump and the creator of “The Apprentice,” contending he dreamed up a show called “C.E.O.” in which contestants would live together and compete for a job with a six-figure salary. According to the lawsuit, Bethea pitched the idea in 2001 to Conrad Riggs, the business manager of “Survivor” and “The Apprentice” creator Mark Burnett, but was told by Riggs that Burnett’s production company was not interested. Burnett insisted he came up with the concept in December 2002 while shooting “Survivor” in the Brazilian rain forest. “I was sitting there in the jungle with every bug, snake and crocodile, thinking there had to be a better way to make a living,” Burnett said. “That’s when I started thinking: urban jungle.” Bethea, who claims he registered his show idea with the Writers Guild of America in August 2000, is seeking damages for copyright infringement, breach of implied contract and unfair competition. The lawsuit estimates Burnett, Trump and the network have made more than $100 million from the show. Calls to NBC Universal were not immediately returned Friday. Trump spokeswoman Norma Foerderer had not yet reviewed the lawsuit and did not have an immediate comment Friday. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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