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Ron Burkle Reveals Increased Influence at Relativity Media

Ron Burkle
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

The former supermarket magnate is described as owning 100 percent of the film studio and could replace CEO Ryan Kavanaugh with Harvey Weinstein, according to a New Yorker profile.

Ron Burkle is wielding more power at Relativity Media than previously disclosed, a development that eventually could lead to the departure of CEO Ryan Kavanaugh, according to a lengthy profile of the former supermarket magnate in The New Yorker posted online Monday.

The Hollywood Reporter and several news outlets had reported previously that Burkle has invested a ton of money into Relativity and has acquired a majority stake in the film company. But in exchange for his most recent investment of “a couple of hundred millions of dollars,” he received 100 percent of Relativity as collateral, The New Yorker reports.

The profile also quotes Burkle saying some very kinds things about Harvey Weinstein and even drops in the theory that Weinstein could replace Kavanaugh.

“One popular Hollywood theory is that Burkle will eventually fire Kavanaugh and most of the Relativity employees, put Harvey Weinstein in charge, and call the merged entities the Weinstein Co.,” writes The New Yorker’s Connie Bruck.

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“Burkle rejects this scenario,” Bruck writes. “When I asked Weinstein about it, he stammered for a moment and then said, ‘Ron has never said that to me, and I doubt that it would be true’.”

Kavanaugh and Relativity declined THR's request for comment on the article.

In the profile, Bruck writes that Burkle has an informal agreement with Weinstein. “Basically I can do half of what he does on a movie.” Burkle says, suggesting he has been given the opportunity to buy into 50 percent of each Weinstein Co. movie.

Bruck continues: “We do everything on a handshake. The first movie we did together, [the 2011 Sundance pickup Our] Idiot Brother, Harvey thought he spent more on P&A [prints and advertising] than he should have, and he called me and said, ‘I’m not gonna take a distribution fee because I don’t think I did you right.’ So, for whatever anybody’s ever told me about how tough Harvey is, he’s been ridiculously fair with me.” He added, “Everything I’ve done with Harvey has been profitable -- everything.”

As for the latest investment in Relativity, Burkle announced a deal in January whereby he acquired most of the equity interest that had been held by New York hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. And in May, Burkle played a key role in arranging $350 million debt-financing deal for Relativity through Colbeck Capital, which brought in a new board of directors that included Burkle, two Colbeck bankers and Kavanaugh.

Burkle has been exerting a good amount of control over Kavanaugh ever since, according to the article.