EXCLUSIVE: Last night’s Oscar ceremony acted as something of an exorcism for many. While there was a Harvey Weinstein-shaped hole at the event, his shadow loomed large. And it was almost fitting that the mogul’s favorite night of the year fell just three days after news dropped that his company would cease to exist.
The emotional significance of the sale, despite getting somewhat lost amid Oscar week, was not missed by his accusers when we reached out to get their thoughts on the deal. Did it bring any closure? Do they welcome the new company direction?
“It is ironic but positive that a woman is involved in the purchase,” actress Katherine Kendall told Deadline about the acquisition, which was led by Maria Contreras-Sweet and Ron Burkle. The duo is expected to pay around $500 million for the assets and relaunch a new company that will have a female-dominated board, keep existing employees, set aside $90M for a victims fund, and pay off the considerable debt the company has incurred.
“It’s encouraging that they have set aside the compensation fund for victims as it’s a tacit acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the claims by the accusers,” the Swingers actress said. How the fund will be allocated is one of the next big questions, however.
Kendall, one of more than 80 women to have spoken out against Weinstein, previously alleged that the producer exposed himself to her in his apartment in 1993. When she rejected his requests for a massage, she claims he told her, “If you won’t let me touch you, will you at least lift up your shirt and show me your t*ts?” Kendall managed to escape the apartment but said she didn’t tell anyone about what had happened because she was “scared” of the producer’s powers.
Weinstein’s lawyers have denied the claim and say the actress is publicizing a lawsuit she has brought against Weinstein in which she is seeking damages.
In a familiar refrain among those Deadline spoke with, Kendall said it was “fortunate that many employees will be able to keep their jobs.” However, she went on to question the role of those at the company who might have facilitated Weinstein’s behavior. “You would hope that the new management would take appropriate action for those executives who enabled Harvey Weinstein’s behavior or simply turned a blind eye,” she said.
TWC board member Tarak Ben Ammar told Deadline last week he was hopeful that the New York Attorney General might halt the blistering civil rights lawsuit filed against the company and its founders in February. It detailed a company culture that routinely violated the state’s human rights laws and business regulations.
“The fund alone won’t compensate the emotional pain suffered by Harvey’s victims but the significance of the sale comes in the fact that this whole company was ultimately brought down by Harvey’s behavior,” Paul Webster, who was Head of Production for Miramax between 1995-1997, told me.
“The fund, the female board, the proposed new direction shows that some good can come from bad,” he said, even if, according to him, Weinstein’s “comeuppence” will only ultimately come via successful court actions.
Webster recently put his head above the parapet when he told the makers of the PBS-Frontline documentary Weinstein: The Inside Story that he knew he was “making a deal with the devil” when he joined the company. “I think looking back that I did know and I chose to suppress it, I chose to hide from that fact,” he said of Weinstein’s alleged wrongdoing. “I think we were all enablers. I think we were all complicit,” he said.
Oscar-winning producer David Parfitt, who worked with Weinstein on films including Shakespeare In Love and My Week With Marilyn, told Deadline: “There have always been many talented people at The Weinstein Company and I am delighted to hear that those talents will not be lost and will now hopefully be able to work in an environment free of harassment.”
Parfitt said in the Channel4 documentary Working With Weinstein that the U.S. producer “pinned” him up against Coke machine and “threatened all sorts of stuff” following a test screening of My Week With Marilyn. Weinstein has denied the allegation.
Parfitt, who didn’t work with TWC again after the film, told me he could see himself working with the new company in the future given its proposed change of direction.