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This year, after The Weinstein Co. declared bankruptcy in the aftermath of allegations that Harvey Weinstein abused dozens of women, its assets were sold to Dallas-based Lantern Capital Partners for $289 million. Since then, there’s been much fuss over whether Lantern has the right to assume various contracts. While Lantern may permit some TV shows and film projects to slip out of its fingers, the company is drawing the line on Peaky Blinders, the cult crime drama set in 1920s England. In fact, a burgeoning dispute over the series could result in a trial next March.
Endemol Shine is the main producer after launching the show, but TWC enjoyed profit participation too after it brokered the deal for Netflix to pick it up.
After the stories about Weinstein circulated, producer Endemol Shine insisted that his name be taken off credits. There was no argument there. But after Endemol alleged that Weinstein’s misconduct meant the termination of the contract, it set off a transatlantic fight.
Netflix has washed its hands by putting $1.6 million in licensing fees into an account pending the resolution of the dispute.
On Thursday, Lantern made its first substantive reply to Endemol’s objection to the assumption of Peaky Blinders contracts.
Endemol argues that TWC has breached representation and warranty on the agreement and prejudiced its right to exploit Peaky Blinders through the actions of its co-founder and the failure of TWC to inform Endemol of sexual abuse.
“The Rights granted by the Agreement have not been prejudiced and, indeed, Peaky Blinders continues to air on Netflix today,” responds Lantern.
Lantern adds that the Peaky Blinders deal isn’t voidable on the grounds of fraudulent inducement because such concept isn’t recognized by English law. Lantern presents what Endemol’s actions as ” self-serving attempts by Endemol to avoid contractual obligations that arise from a bargained-for contract negotiated at arms-length because it now prefers to pursue another business arrangement, presumably on enhanced economic terms.”
It’s further argued by Lantern that there was no obligation under the agreement to disclose Weinstein’s conduct and that the contract was hardly one for his personal services.
“Indeed, if Mr. Weinstein’s reputation or morality were important to Endemol in entering the Agreement, Endemol could have included a reputation or morality clause, or another provision to that effect,” writes Lantern’s lawyers. “Likewise, if Endemol viewed Mr. Weinstein as important to the Agreement, it could have included a ‘key man’ provision. Such provisions are lacking, and are not even relevant to the actual Rights in the Agreement. In short, the Agreement does not support the suggestion that Mr. Weinstein’s personal reputation or character were material to Endemol’s decision to enter into the Agreement.”
Endemol previously pushed the bankruptcy judge to lift a stay so that it might litigate this dispute in England.
The two sides have now entered into a stipulation that spells out the schedule ahead. According to that document, the parties will now pursue discovery in the next month, exchange preliminary witness lists and schedule depositions in November and December, and then deliver pretrial briefs with the court at the beginning of next year. The parties envision an evidentiary hearing to begin on March 6.
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