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'Bachelor' creator Mike Fleiss exits reality TV franchise

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 Mike Fleiss, the creator of "The Bachelor". (Courtesy)

Mike Fleiss, the creator of "The Bachelor," has exited the reality TV franchise more than two decades after the iconic dating show launched.

His departure was confirmed Tuesday, a day after "The Bachelor" aired its season 27 finale.

"I want to thank WBTV and ABC for 21 extraordinary years," Fleiss said in a statement shared with The Associated Press. The statement did not include the reason for his exit.

While Fleiss has been the face of the "The Bachelor," "The Bachelorette" and other spinoffs since the shows' inceptions, trade publications report he hasn't led day-to-day operations in around a decade.

For years, "The Bachelor" and its associated shows have wielded significant cultural influence and stoked controversy all along. In recent years, the show has been beset by waning ratings, competition from newer reality dating shows and a series of scandals - including accusations of racism that ejected longtime host Chris Harrison.

Fleiss described the show as lightning in a bottle and said the creative team taking over will keep the franchise "bold and moving forward."

"Let the journey continue," he said.

Taking the helm as executive producers and showrunners for the franchise are three franchise stalwarts: Claire Freeland, Jason Ehrlich and Bennett Graebner. Freeland is a former showrunner for Canada's version of "The Bachelor" and associated shows, while Ehrlich has served as the showrunner for several seasons of "The Bachelor," "The Bachelorette" and "Bachelor Pad." Graebner has been with the franchise for more than 15 years and was an executive producer of its current offerings - "The Bachelor," "The Bachelorette" and "Bachelor in Paradise."

The trio had already begun working on the upcoming season of "The Bachelorette," which will be that show's 20th. The new season premieres in June and features Charity Lawson - a fan favorite and the third runner-up of the most recent season of "The Bachelor."

That season ended Monday with the engagement of lead Zach Shallcross and Kaity Biggar.

"I wish them a long and happy life together," Fleiss said in his statement.

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