Investor says deal reached for Weinstein Company assets

Maria Contreras-Sweet said a deal has been reached to buy most of the assets of the near-bankrupt studio.
Maria Contreras-Sweet said a deal has been reached to buy most of the assets of the near-bankrupt studio.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (AFP) - A former official in the Barack Obama administration said on Thursday (March 2) she had reached a deal to buy assets from Harvey Weinstein's former company to launch a new firm after the Hollywood mogul's downfall for alleged sexual misconduct.

Maria Contreras-Sweet said the deal had been reached with the New York state attorney-general's office, which last month sued The Weinstein Company fearing that its imminent sale could leave his alleged victims without adequate redress.

It was the latest dramatic twist in a long-running saga over the future of the New York-headquartered film studio, which has floundered on the brink of bankruptcy since Weinstein was hit by bombshell allegations, torpedoing his career last October.

Contreras-Sweet's statement came just days after the production house announced it would file for bankruptcy, accusing the investor group led by the former head of the Small Business Administration under Obama of coming up short on making a deal.

"Our team is pleased to announce that we have taken an important step and have reached an agreement to purchase assets from The Weinstein Company in order to launch a new company," Contreras-Sweet said in a statement.

The Weinstein Company Board of Directors confirmed the deal late on Thursday, saying it "provides a clear path for compensation for victims and protects the jobs of our employees."

"We are pleased to announce that we have entered into an agreement to sell the assets of The Weinstein Company to an investor group led by Maria Contreras-Sweet and Ron Burkle," it said.

"We consider this to be a positive outcome under what have been incredibly difficult circumstances."

Contreras-Sweet said her intention was to "build a movie studio led by a board of directors made up of a majority of independent women, save about 150 jobs, protect the small businesses who are owed money and create a victims' compensation fund."

The Weinstein Company had previously been close to sealing a deal with the Contreras-Sweet group last month when New York's attorney-general Eric Schneiderman launched last-minute legal action and imposed various principles on any sale going forward.

Contreras-Sweet offered no details about the deal. Her investor group's bid for the Company had previously been reported at US$500 million (S$660 million).


She said the new company would have a new board, represent "the best practices in corporate governance and transparency" and amounted to "the best possible pathway to support victims and protect employees."

Weinstein was sacked as company chairman in October after bombshell exposes accused him of years of sexual harassment, assault and even rape.

More than 100 women have since accused him of impropriety going back 40 years, leading not only to his career annihilation but to a US reckoning over harassment and abuse that has toppled a litany of powerful men in various sectors.

New York state attorney-general Eric Schneiderman stipulated last month that any deal should provide adequate compensation for victims, protect employees and remove executives who had been complicit in Weinstein's misconduct.

On Sunday, the company complained that Contreras-Sweet's group had neither kept its side of the bargain on Schneiderman's principles nor paid interim funding required to run the business and maintain employees before the buyout was finalised.

Contreras-Sweet, who said she had been inspired by the #MeToo sexual harassment watershed in her bid to turn the company around and have it led by women, at the time responded by saying "regrettably, it appears that this transaction has now ended."

The fate of several finished movies, which have languished on the shelf since the scandal blew up, with no release dates announced, remain unclear under any new deal.

They include historical drama The Current War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison, Mary Magdalene, a religious drama starring Rooney Mara, and The War With Grandpa, a comedy starring Robert De Niro.

Weinstein, a twice-married father of five, is being investigated by British and US police, but has not been charged with any crime. He denies having non-consensual sex and is reportedly in treatment for sex addiction.