Harvey Weinstein’s self-declared indefinite leave of absence from the company he co-founded and co-chairs could become permanent. While not showing him the door yet, The Weinstein Company board announced this evening that they have retained outside lawyers and begun an independent investigation of the co-chairman following yesterday’s exhaustive New York Times report detailing decades of alleged sexual harassment and big-bucks settlements.
“The investigating lawyers will be reporting to a special committee of the board composed exclusively of independent directors,” the statement signed by Bob Weinstein and three other board members read. The statement also says that it is “essential to our Company’s culture that all women who work for it or have any dealings with it or any of our executives are treated with respect and have no experience of harassment or discrimination.”
The board controls the majority of the company, with Harvey holding about a 23% equity stake and his brother and co-chief Bob holding the same amount.
“We strongly endorse Harvey Weinstein’s already-announced decision to take an indefinite leave of absence from the Company, commencing today,” the TWC board also said in the statement Friday. “As Harvey has said, it is important for him to get professional help for the problems he has acknowledged. Next steps will depend on Harvey’s therapeutic progress, the outcome of the Board’s independent investigation, and Harvey’s own personal decisions.”
“In the meantime, the Company is under the leadership of its Co-Chairman, Bob Weinstein, and its Chief Operating Officer, David Glasser, who plan to proceed with business in the ordinary course,” the announcement adds.
The development comes after a dramatic two-day emergency board meeting held in the wake of the New York Times exposé that detailed numerous devastating allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein. The meeting started Thursday and continued all day today. During the volatile showdown between Harvey and the board, who were reportedly at odds over the extend of his suspension from the company, three board member resigned — billionaire publishing heir and investor Dirk Ziff; Tim Sarnoff, Deputy CEO and President of Production at Technicolor; and Marc Lasry, CEO of Avenue Capital Group and a co-owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
Indicating a deep divide, of the nine TWC board members (eight without Harvey Weinstein), only four signed the statement — which endorsed his indefinite leave but stopped short of terminating him — Weinstein’s brother Bob, Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov and Richard Koenigsberg. In addition to the three who resigned, Paul Tudor Jones, allegedly opted not to sign the statement
This apparent swift-ish action by the board is clearly aimed at limiting the damage the report has already inflicted on the company’s reputation. It also seems similar to the tactic Fox News Channel used soon after the now-deceased Roger Ailes was accused of sexual harassment by former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson in summer 2016.
Despite the eventual golden-parachute exit of Ailes from the cable news network last year, more and more cases of such behavior by others at FNC have come out in the ensuing months. The result has seen the exit of top host Bill O’Reilly, among others, Allegations that the independent investigation process of NYC-based law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is far from unbiased were raised by an ex-on-air guest who says she was pushed not to claim Fox Business Network host Charles Payne raped her.
“We have retained an independent and leading lawyer and firm, John Kiernan of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, to undertake a thorough and independent investigation and report to the full Board on the results of that investigation,” said the TWC statement, signed by board members Bob Weinstein, Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov and Richard Koenigsberg.
“Working with Mr. Kiernan will be his partners Matthew Fishbein, former Chief Assistant United States Attorney for both the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, and Helen Cantwell, former prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and the New York County District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit, who have extensive experience in these kinds of investigations,” it adds.
The detailed and exhaustively researched NYT piece revealed a damning pattern of behavior from the Oscar-winning movie mogul and key Democratic fundraiser that includes allegations by Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and others. On Friday another woman, local Fox News reporter Lauren Sivan, came forward, detailing inappropriate behavior by Weinstein over a decade ago.
After the NYT report, Weinstein issued a lengthy apology, acknowledging that his behavior “with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.”
A longtime towering presence in Hollywood, Weinstein founded The Weinstein Company with his brother Bob in 2005, shortly after the two left Miramax Films, which they co-founded in 1979. Weinstein and his companies are known for their voracious Oscars campaigns, and TWC has produced a slew of Best Picture nominees in the past dozens years: Lion, Carol, Philomena, Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter, Inglourious Basterds, The Reader and The King’s Speech, which won the marquee award in 2011.
Before that, Miramax distributed such acclaimed indie fare as The Hours, Fahrenheit 9/11, Gangs of New York, The Cider House Rules, Good Will Hunting, Sling Blade, Emma, Four Rooms, Clerks, Palme d’Or winner Pulp Fiction and Best Picture Oscars winners Chicago, The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love, the last of which earned Weinstein his lone Academy Award.
The company is currently prepping a Oscar campaign for the Taylor Sheridan-directed Wind River, about the rape and victimization of Native American women.
Weinstein also has won seven Tony Awards for producing plays and musicals including The Producers, Billy Elliot the Musical and August: Osage County.
On the TV side, TWC is the co-producer, along with Miramax, of the venerable reality series Project Runway, which has grown into a major franchise for Lifetime and received a Peabody Award in 2007. The company ramped up its TV operation over the last few years as it also has been looking to sell a majority stake in its TV assets. TWC recently did TIME: The Kalief Browder Story for Spike; has Six on History; Scream on MTV, based on the Dimension Films movies; and Peaky Blinders on Netflix. Upcoming series include Waco for Paramount TV; a new series from David O. Russell, starring Robert DeNiro and Julianne Moore for Amazon; and Matthew Weiner’s The Romanoffs, also for Amazon.
TWC COO/president Glasser, who joined the company as head of international in 2008, has long been a stabilizing buffer between the sometimes gruff Weinstein brothers and TWC’s staff, talent and the Hollywood community. Glasser resigned from TWC in 2015 before changing his mind and signing a new contract that takes him through 2018.
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.