Ron Tutor: The Lawsuits, Losses and Private Struggles of the Man Behind Miramax
There is one old friend of Tutor’s who almost certainly is not consulted regularly: Bergstein. It was Tutor’s buddy Bergstein who brought the Miramax deal to Tutor and was involved in negotiations — Tutor said in a July 2010 deposition that he paid Bergstein on an hourly basis to consult on the transaction — but their relationship soured under the weight of lawsuits and the 2010 involuntary bankruptcies of the film companies they co-owned. In May, for example, Tutor and Bergstein settled a $108 million lawsuit filed on behalf of the now-defunct New York hedge fund D.B. Zwirn, which had been a primary backer of the partners’ film ventures. The settlement was worth $75 million, according to court filings. And more legal action looms. They no longer work together. “And we’re hardly what you’d call business associates or friends any longer,” said Tutor in a February deposition. Tutor is the largest creditor in the bankruptcy of the film companies he co-owned with Bergstein, but if Tutor is declared an “insider,” he would be unable to pursue his claims. He said in the deposition that he has spent $1 million a month in legal fees during the past year to deal with matters related to Bergstein, which also have included a settlement and a pending case with lender Aramid Entertainment Fund. Bergstein declined comment.
While his troubles with Bergstein wind their way through the courts, Tutor continues to sell Tutor Perini stock as the share price drops. In a March conference call with analysts, Tutor addressed the sales, saying, “Well, the problem is I’m in escrow that has now been delayed twice in closing on my movie assets,” without elaborating on the nature of the deal. In a March transaction, Tutor sold stock at $13.62 a share, down 31 percent since the sell-off began in August 2010 at $19.81 a share. In an August call with analysts, Tutor said that after he satisfied one more agreement, he did not “intend to sell any stock at these ridiculous numbers.”
If Tutor’s record in the construction business is an indication, despite his busted ventures with Bergstein and a less-than-roaring start to his Miramax tenure, the businessman can’t be counted out in Hollywood. Bert Fields, a prominent entertainment attorney who represents The Weinstein Co., says Tutor’s legal issues — both with Bergstein and in the construction business — probably have given some people pause, but he doesn’t believe Tutor has lost deals in Hollywood because of the reputation he has earned. “All of us have to live or die with our reputations,” says Fields. “But I don’t know that it hurts him.”
And Hallren notes that the standards in the entertainment business are simple: “If your check clears, that’s all that matters.”