The Weinstein Co is in talks to sell its TV division to ITV, Deadline has confirmed. The deal could be worth as much as $950 million, though the initial upfront fee is likely to be closer to a third of that figure — between $300 million and $400 million. No deal has closed and there are still several details that need ironing out, sources with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed.
If a deal does close, then it essentially would mark the incarnation of The Weinstein Company 3.0.
If the company’s first guise came with its splashy $1 billion launch — $500 million in debt, $500 million in high-profile equity — in 2005 as a multimedia company with interests in everything from film to fashion and the Internet, TWC 2.0 has, until the news of the potential ITV deal, been an entirely different proposition. The company has had to scrap for funding for much of its being, ever since a 2010 debt restructure, and simultaneously far more successful in terms of box office success with the likes of Django Unchained and Lee Daniels’ The Butler, not to mention awards kudos with Silver Linings Playbook, The Artist and The King’s Speech.
During that time, TWC has branched out into TV, across both reality (Mob Wives) and scripted fare (Marco Polo, War And Peace). The Weinstein Co also has a piece of the long-running unscripted series Project Runway, developed and originally produced by Miramax TV. The company’s TV pipeline includes 10-part event series Ten Commandments at WGN America and ancient Egypt-set drama Book Of The Dead.
All of which brings up the question of why would a diversified company sell off a major part of its company? Especially now. The first, and most obvious, answer is cash. TWC’s long-suffering shareholders finally can expect to get a solid chunk of their investment back from the ITV money. That’s quite a turnaround for a company that has at times been on the brink of financial calamity. In 2010, for example, the company avoided bankruptcy when Goldman Sachs and investment company Assured Guaranty LTD jointly took control of some 200 films and their recoupables in the Weinstein library and received $115 million from the insurance company Ambac as part of a restructuring that saved TWC and wiped $450 million of debt off the company’s books.
Deadline exclusively revealed in February that Goldman Sachs had sold its interest in TWC’s library to AMC Networks for an undisclosed amount. Separately, TWC announced at Cannes last year it had entered into a co-financing agreement with Worldview. That pact since has been reduced to a legal battle following the disintegration of Worldview under a mountain of lawsuits. Bob and Harvey Weinstein also have been actively seeking outside financing for individual projects and more strategic plays for some time now.
Larger questions as to the fate of TWC’s film operations now also come into play. While the Weinstein brothers and COO David Glasser have turned the company around, particularly with the creation of the TV operation, film remains — and always will be — a volatile business. For every Django and Silver Linings, there’s a Vampire Academy or Sin City 2 waiting in the shadows to wipe out any profits.
The real cash cow has been TV, whether in actual programming or relationships — witness the strategic partnership with Netflix, for example, across both film (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2) and TV (Marco Polo renewed for a second season).
The Weinsteins intend to continue managing both the film and TV divisions of TWC moving forward, albeit with different ownership. The long-term question might be, however, whether the kings of independent film decide to become the kings of TV instead.