The Weinstein Co. has a potential financial white knight emerging, a surprise bidder who may keep the studio in business and create a new leadership that will feature a majority of women.
Maria Contreras-Sweet, a former head of the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama, has submitted the first reported bid, according to the Wall Street Journal. The news service obtained a letter to the board of directors of the Weinstein Co.
No potential purchase price was disclosed in the Nov. 8 letter, and the financial backers of Contreras-Sweet are not identified. However, the WSJ reported the majority are women, with Contreras-Sweet also providing funds.
The company would continue in business and its 157 employees would be retained, the letter added. However, current co-chairman Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein’s brother, wouldn’t stay with the company under Contreras-Sweet.
The bid for the Weinstein Co. comes as many speculated it would be shut down. Some observers claimed it would only be able to sell its assets if it went through a bankruptcy organization, although the Weinstein Co. disputes that assertion.
Investment bank Moelis & Co. is handling sale arrangements and recently sent out nondisclosure agreements to potential bidders. About a half-dozen potential bidders have signed the agreements, according to the WSJ.
In the meantime, Time Warner Inc’s purchase of rights to the family sequel Paddington 2 in the US and Canada will provide about $15 million to the company coffers, enough to keep the Weinstein Co. afloat during the sale process.
In the letter to the board, Contreras-Sweet said she has been “profoundly affected by the recent revelations” and that “reorganizing the Company as a woman-led venture will be an inspiration to the industry, and a new model for how an entertainment company can be both financially successful and treat all its employees with dignity and respect.”
Contreras-Sweet previously founded Latino-focused ProAmerica Bank, which was bought by Pacific Commerce Bank in 2015. She is on the board of directors of Sempra Energy and has no prior ties in media or entertainment.
Contreras-Sweet also said in the letter that she hopes to be executive chairwoman of a majority-female board and would rename the company. In addition, a fund for victims of the alleged sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein, the studio’s recently fired co-chairman, would be established, along with a mediation process to settle any legal actions.
A purchase of the Weinstein Co. has been reportedly explored by A&E Networks, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Some hedge funds have also reportedly looked into a potential purchase.
Private-equity firm Colony Capital had an exclusive negotiation period but did not conclude a deal.
The request for a mediation process was reported to be conceived with attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing several alleged victims of Harvey Weinstein. An anonymous actress represented by Allred filed suit last week against the Weinstein. Co. and Harvey Weinstein personally, alleging assault and sexual battery. In a separate action, an actress filed against the Weinstein Co. and Miramax, seeking class-action status.
So far, the Weinstein Co. and Miramax have not commented on the suits. Harvey Weinstein has denied allegations of non-consensual sex through his spokesperson.
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