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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Sacked movie tycoon's company assets up for sale

Move comes after co-founder's brother fires Harvey Weinstein, accused of sexually harassing or assaulting women over the past three decades

Harvey Weinstein, mired in a sex scandal, was fired by his brother from The Weinstein Co, which may be putting itself up for sale. Richard Shotwell / AP
Harvey Weinstein, mired in a sex scandal, was fired by his brother from The Weinstein Co, which may be putting itself up for sale. Richard Shotwell / AP

The Weinstein Company has entered talks to sell the bulk of its assets to private equity firm Colony Capital, the companies said, as the film production company looks for stability after the departure of the co-founder Harvey Weinstein.

Co-chairman Bob Weinstein, Harvey's brother and the other co-founder, on Friday had denied the firm was seeking to sell or shut down after firing Harvey Weinstein, accused of sexually harassing or assaulting women over the past three decades.

Colony Capital, which has about US$20 billion in assets under management, will provide an immediate capital infusion into Weinstein Co and is in talks to buy all or a significant portion of its assets, the companies said.

Weinstein Co will have a board meeting on Tuesday, the company confirmed on Monday. No further details of the meeting were available.

One of Hollywood's most influential forces since launching in October 2005, Weinstein Co produces and distributes films, scoring hits Shakespeare in Love, The King's Speech, Silver Linings Playbook and others. Its TWC Television arm produces the long-running reality series Project Runway. It does not operate a film studio and as such, has few physical assets.

If the deal goes through, it will be familiar territory for Thomas Barrack, the founder and executive chairman of Colony Capital.

His firm and another investor bought the Miramax studio, founded by the Weinstein brothers, in 2010 and sold the movie production and distribution company last year.

Like Miramax, the value of Weinstein Co likely lies in its library of movie hits, which are in demand by traditional TV networks and online streaming services.

Weinstein Co handed control of 200 to 250 films to Goldman Sachs and insurance company Assured Guaranty when it overhauled its balance sheet to avoid bankruptcy in 2010, while retaining ownership of 150 films, it was reported at the time.

Goldman Sachs later offloaded its control of the library to AMC Networks, which still owns a minority stake in the library, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

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It is unclear who holds control of the bulk of the library now, because the 2010 deal allowed for Weinstein Co to reclaim ownership once some debts were repaid.

Colony Capital and Weinstein Co made no mention of a possible deal value.

Last year, Harvey Weinstein told The Hollywood Reporter that the privately held company was worth $700 million to $800m, including the film library, and that it had no debt.

There are no public filings on which to assess the likely value of the company or its debt load. Opus Bank was one of several banks that funded a $400m credit facility to Weinstein Co in August 2016, but it is unclear if the company tapped the facility.

Mr Barrack, a real estate tycoon, is a friend of the US president Donald Trump and served as chairman of his inaugural committee.

The cash infusion comes after more of the Weinstein Co's partners have cut ties in recent days. Goldman Sachs said on Friday it is exploring options for the stake it holds in the company. Goldman's stake is less than $1m.

Hachette Book Group, the US publishing house of French group Lagardere, terminated the Weinstein Books imprint on Thursday.

Colony's cash infusion will "stabilise the company's current operations, as well as provide comfort to our critical distribution, production and talent partners around the world," the companies said.

A number of women have claimed that movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them over the past three decades. Mr Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled Mr Weinstein on Saturday, a sharp smack for a Hollywood mogul known for powering a string of films to Oscar gold. The Weinsteins together have received 341 Oscar nominations and won 81 Academy Awards.

Colony Capital is the private equity arm of Colony NorthStar, a real estate investment trust that has holdings in health care, industrial and hospitality sectors.