FRIDAY UPDATE: I just heard from a knowledgeable source that the Mark Burnett-IMG deal may be as rich as $500 million — $250M upfront, the rest earned out…

EXCLUSIVE: I chased a rumor from a month ago that Mark Burnett might be starting his own network. Now I’ve learned what the already rich reality TV czar (Survivor, The Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?) is really up to: making even more moolah. An insider tells me Burnett is negotiating to sell his company to the entertainment and sports management and production behemoth IMG and come on board. I understand Burnett is “in very serious conversation” with IMG chairman Teddy Forstmann, whose Wall Street private equity firm Forstmann Little back in 2004 acquired IMG which was founded by his legendary friend Mark McCormack. Forstmann keeps looking for Tinseltown deals so when the LBO prince was spotted having lunch in as public a venue as NYC’s Michael’s a month ago, it sparked that rumor about Burnett starting his own network. Plus, remember that last September Teddy brought HBO’s fired Chris Albrecht to IMG as the president of global media and IMG entertainment, made him a special limited partner in Forstmann Little, and gave him a $250 million fund for showbiz content investments. It’ll be interesting to see how much bigger Burnett’s deal will be. And here’s why IMG considers him so valuable: I’m told that, at a Beverly Hills entertainment conference just yesterday, IMG’s head of global media operations Carmi Zlotnick leaped to Burnett’s defense when a panelist pointed out how out of place it was for a Pontiac to drive up on the beach in Survivor and how much better product placement could be done. Immediately, Zlotnick scolded the panelist for “attacking” Burnett and instructed how the car line’s Solstice model sold out its entire first run after its appearance on The Apprentice. Zlotnick, who used to be HBO’s former executive VP of creative operations and business development until Albrecht brought him to IMG in February, then went on to gush that Burnett was a “visionary genius” who’s “reimagining television and its models”. Well, it sure sounds like IMG has already drank the Mark Burnett Kool-Aid…

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.

For all of Deadline's headlines, follow us @Deadline on Twitter.