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£79m bonus as Roma Downey lands MGM job

By Claire McNeilly

Published 16/12/2015

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett
Roma Downey and Mark Burnett

Roma Downey has received an early Christmas present worth a staggering £79m.

The 55-year-old actress and producer from the Bogside in Londonderry has also effectively been appointed third in command at MGM, one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world.

Marking a prosperous end to a great year for Downey - who is already Northern Ireland's second richest woman - her TV producer husband Mark Burnett has also been named president of MGM Television and Digital Group.

Downey, who was catapulted to fame in the States as Monica on the CBS series Touched by an Angel, which ran from 1994 to 2003, said she was looking forward to her new role as chief content officer of the faith and family division of MGM - answering only to her husband.

"We have entered into an era where faith-based and family programming is experiencing a creative renaissance," she said.

"I am so excited and grateful to be part of this new team at MGM.

"This is an enthusiastic marketplace that inspires us every day to create and curate new, thoughtful and dynamic content for all screens in the distribution landscape."

The Malibu-based actress -who took the second slot on the Sunday Times Rich List for Northern Ireland this year with £375m - and her husband will see their combined wealth increase significantly following the deal with MGM.

On Monday, the American media giant announced that it was buying the portion of United Artists Media Group (UAMG) held by Downey, Burnett and their company Hearst Entertainment.

The transaction requires Burnett and Downey to exchange their 23% in UAMG for 1.34 million shares of MGM stock - valued at $90 per share, or $120m (£79m) - while Hearst will receive $113.5m for its 22% in UAMG.

Downey, who has one daughter, Reilly (19), is currently preparing her re-imagining of the 1950s Hollywood biblical epic Ben Hur.In 2013, Downey and Burnett produced a 10-hour docudrama for the History Channel, The Bible, which was later adapted into a feature film called Son of God.

They had been inspired by Cecil B DeMille's version of The Ten Commandments.

The show received three Emmy Award nominations for best mini-series and enjoyed high US ratings.

Downey is also set to host a new faith-based show in America called Answered Prayers, which seeks to strengthen viewers' spiritual connection with God by exploring "modern-day miracles".

Next year, the Northern Ireland native will get her own star on the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, alongside legendary names such as Marilyn Monroe, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Errol Flynn.

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