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Endemol chairman leaves 'Big Brother' family

Peter Bazalgette, one of the most influential figures in broadcasting, is leaving the Big Brother producer Endemol after nearly a decade.

The chairman of Endemol in the UK and chief creative officer of the international production giant told its founder John de Mol of his intention to leave earlier this summer.

After seeing the company through a flotation and a sale over the past two years, Mr Bazalgette is leaving the maker of Deal or No Deal to pursue projects in digital media. He is already a non-executive director of the online polling firm YouGov. Mr Bazalgette will continue to advise the production company in 2008.

Mr de Mol bought back the company in May from the Spanish telecoms company Telefonica, in a consortium with Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset and Goldman Sachs. The Dutch media mogul was Mr Bazalgette's predecessor as chief creative officer.

Mr Bazalgette started his career at the BBC and forged a reputation devising television formats that could be imported around the world. In the 1990s, his successes included Changing Rooms, Ground Force and Ready, Steady, Cook.

He joined Endemol in 1998, when it bought Broadcast Communications from Guardian Media Group, which eight years earlier had snapped up his own independent production company, Bazal.

Mr Bazalgette went on to become the main defender of Big Brother in the UK, a role which became increasingly arduous as a series of scandals engulfed the show, culminating in the eviction of Jade Goody from the Celebrity Big Brother house after the alleged racist bullying of the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.

He said: "In the past 10 years, I've been on the set menu, the table d'hôte and I want to go à la carte. There are lots of exciting things happening in the digital world. I'd like to do some non-executive work for a number of different digital companies. I've done my bit at Endemol. I've been the spokesman for Big Brother for seven years in the UK. That's enough time in the trenches."

He said that there are lots of exciting opportunities for traditional broadcasters and digital media to work together. Deal or No Deal has branched out from the Channel 4 quiz show into online gaming, while Endemol has just signed a deal for a comedy project which will involve funny people the company has found on YouTube. Mr Bazalgette said the highlights of his career at Endemol ranged from the launch of Big Brother the year after he joined to "the hundreds of thousands of people who play Deal or No Deal on their mobile phones".

The Endemol chief executive Aat Schouwenaar thanked Mr Bazalgette for the "vital role he has played over the years" and said that he was "sad" to see him step down, but looked forward to working with him as an adviser.

After studying law at Cambridge, Mr Bazalgette joined BBC News and in the 1970s worked on That's Life as a researcher. He was creative director of Endemol UK, becoming chairman in 2002. In 2005, he joined the executive board as chief creative officer, overseeing content across the international group. He is also deputy chairman of the National Film and Television School and a board member of the English National Opera.