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Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Greg Braxton

Controversial 'Bachelor' creator Mike Fleiss steps down after more than 2 decades

LOS ANGELES — Mike Fleiss, the creator of ABC's "The Bachelor" franchise — long a flagship of the network, and one regularly rocked by controversy and scandal — is leaving the show's executive ranks.

The announcement came one day after the conclusion of the latest season of "The Bachelor," in which star Zach Shallcross proposed to Kaity Biggar.

Fleiss gave no specific reason for his departure but said he was leaving the franchise in capable hands. He also gave thanks to the show's producer, Warner Bros. Television.

"First and foremost, congratulations are in order for Zach and Kaity. I wish them a long and happy life together," he said in a statement. "I want to thank WBTV and ABC for 21 extraordinary years. They've found the perfect creative team for me to entrust The Bachelor franchise and keep this lightning in a bottle bold and moving forward. Let the journey continue."

The franchise will be taken over by Claire Freeland, Jason Ehrlich and Bennett Graebner, who will be executive producers and showrunners. Ehrlich and Graebner are veterans of the franchise, while Freeland was the former showrunner of the "Bachelor" franchise in Canada.

Since its premiere in 2002, "The Bachelor" has been one of the most valuable franchises on the Disney-owned ABC — and one whose history has been clouded by criticism of its lack of racial and ethnic diversity and its handling of the subject onscreen.

"The Bachelor" cast its first Black male lead, Matt James, after an outcry from fans in the summer of 2020, only to see James' season unravel in a firestorm over racism that eventually led to the departure of longtime host Chris Harrison.

Fleiss himself had also been at the center of scandal in recent years. In 2019, a Los Angeles County judge ordered Fleiss to stay 100 yards away from his estranged wife, Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss, after she filed a complaint alleging that he'd verbally and physically abused her during an altercation between the two that was caught on security cameras at the couple's Hawaii home. Kaeppeler Fleiss withdrew the complaint against Fleiss, who denied the alleged assault, when the couple divorced two weeks later.


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