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The Charlotte Kirk scandal has brought unwanted publicity — and in a couple of high-profile cases, professional calamity — to an assortment of Hollywood players. But a new entity has surfaced in documents recently filed in litigation arising from the Kirk saga: Dune Entertainment, the film finance company formerly run by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
An unknown party added the name “Dune Entertainment” by hand to an August 2017 settlement document listing people and companies protected from liability in any legal matter involving Kirk and the group of men who she claims sexually abused her. The settlement document includes references to multiple Mnuchin-associated entities: Dune Entertainment LLC, Dune Entertainment II LLC and Dune Entertainment III LLC. Kirk has made no allegations against Mnuchin or Dune Entertainment. Through a spokesperson, Mnuchin denies any knowledge of the settlement.
This marks the first mention of Mnuchin’s former business in the Kirk saga, which has resulted in the ouster of two studio heads: former Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara and onetime NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer. Kirk has alleged in court documents that they were among a group of Hollywood executives who exploited her, taking advantage of her autism. The filings also reveal for the first time that Warner Bros. was listed as a party to be indemnified. WarnerMedia declined comment.
Kirk is now challenging the settlement agreement she had reached with the group. That agreement also precludes her and her former boyfriend, director Joshua Newton, from disparaging any of the listed parties. Portions of the settlement agreement were included in 298 pages of material filing recently submitted to the L.A. Superior Court on Newton’s behalf. Kirk appears to be the first person to test California’s #MeToo legislation signed into law in September 2018 that banned the use of nondisclosure agreements in sexual misconduct cases.
The settlement was designed to protect Tsujihara from liability, along with film financier Avi Lerner as well as Mnuchin’s former partners in RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Brett Ratner and James Packer. In court documents, Kirk alleges that Packer forced her to have sex with Tsujihara in a 2013 encounter at the Hotel Bel-Air. She further claims that Packer and Ratner set up that encounter to seal a $450 million film-financing deal (including such titles as Dunkirk and Wonder Woman) between Warner Bros. and RatPac-Dune Entertainment, which was then a newly formed partnership between Ratner and Packer’s company, RatPac Entertainment, and Mnuchin’s Dune Entertainment.
References to Mnuchin’s companies appear on the second page of a legal filing titled “Confidential Side Agreement.” Dune appears directly above a passage that indemnifies Warners. (The same side agreement lists Meyer as an indemnified party. In a separate legal proceeding, Kirk has claimed that the side agreement was added without her knowledge.) The Newton complaint was filed Oct. 21, and Martin Singer, the attorney representing several men in the Kirk matter, including Ratner, Packer and Lerner, is now attempting to have the records sealed.
In response to queries from THR, Treasury spokesperson Monica Crowley said in an email that Mnuchin only learned of Kirk’s allegations against his former partners “when he read them in the press.” She says he was not involved in their settlement negotiations with Kirk. “Secretary Mnuchin was not represented in the settlement as he was not involved nor was he aware of any settlement discussions,” she said.
According to Crowley, Mnuchin’s Dune Entertainment investment “was sold several years ago.” She did not respond to questions about when and to whom. She added that Mnuchin was “not aware of any specific indemnity related to this [settlement], but Dune Entertainment received general indemnities as part of its business arrangement with Warner.”
Singer declined comment. Previously, he told THR, “My clients are the victims of a multimillion-dollar civil extortion plot perpetrated by Charlotte Kirk, her former boyfriend Joshua Newton and her latest paramour [filmmaker] Neil Marshall.”
Before serving in the Trump administration, Mnuchin was a longtime investor in the film business. Dune had a slate deal with Fox for some years before Mnuchin partnered with Ratner and Packer and switched to financing Warners movies.
Dune is a private company that has never disclosed information about its operations. It never financed a Warners movie independent of the RatPac-Dune partnership. When Mnuchin was chairman and chief executive of OneWest bank from 2009 to 2015, Dune invested in Ryan Kavanaugh’s troubled Relativity Media. In October 2014, while remaining in his post at the bank, Mnuchin became co-chairman of Relativity. (He and Kavanaugh also bought a Falcon 50 jet together, and Mnuchin took up residence at the Hotel du Cap during the Cannes Film Festival.)
Meanwhile, Mnuchin’s bank loaned Kavanaugh’s precariously situated company tens of millions of dollars. Mnuchin resigned as co-chairman of Relativity in May 2015. Shortly before the company filed for bankruptcy in July 2015, his bank shocked Kavanaugh by pulling about $50 million in loans from Relativity’s accounts, according to court documents. Following the filing, the bank was still owed $27.8 million. Apart from the bank, Mnuchin and the Dune investors are believed to have lost tens of millions in the Relativity collapse.
In February 2017, six months before the Kirk settlement was reached, Mnuchin had joined the Trump administration as Treasury secretary and put his Dune stake into a blind trust. In June 2017, he reported that he had divested his stake in the RatPac-Dune partnership. In December 2018, Mnuchin tasked his brother, Alan Mnuchin, with overseeing the sale of the RatPac-Dune film library. One month later, Warner Bros. ended up paying roughly $290 million for the RatPac-Dune stake in about 76 of the studio’s movies — a high price that raised eyebrows within the industry at the time.
Meanwhile, Mnuchin’s other partner, Packer, was headed into a different kind of trouble. As recounted in texts obtained by THR, it was Packer who invited Kirk — an aspiring actress eager to land big roles — to the Hotel Bel-Air on the night of Sept. 26, 2013, with the promise of “the opportunity of a lifetime.” In court documents, Kirk alleges that when she arrived at the hotel, she was introduced to a cocaine-snorting Tsujihara, who then stepped into another room in the presidential suite. She claims that Packer told her Tsujihara wanted to discuss her career, but that when she entered the other room, she found Tsujihara naked on the bed, demanding sex. She claims Packer blocked her from leaving and menacingly told her she had to have sex with Tsujihara. She also alleges in court filings that Packer offered her $30,000 to have sex with the Warners executive, which she says she declined. “Fearing for her personal safety, being blacklisted and the destruction of her career before it ever began,” she succumbed to Packer’s demands “and engaged in non-consensual intercourse with Mr. [Tsujihara] under duress,” court papers allege.
Tsujihara’s personal attorney, Bert H. Deixler, has stated of allegations made against his client: “Any claims made against Kevin Tsujihara related to Ms. Kirk are legally and factually baseless, manufactured many years after their brief consensual relationship to unjustly seek the payment of money. The relationship was pursued by Ms. Kirk and at all times understood by Kevin to be entirely consensual. While Kevin continues to regret the relationship and the impact it had on his family, he will pursue all legal remedies available to protect himself from extortionate claims and prevent false accusations against him.”
Kirk ultimately got minor roles in two Warners films: 2016’s How to Be Single, which credits Mnuchin as an executive producer, and 2018’s Ocean’s 8. The settlement agreement promised Kirk would be paid $3 million over 24 months plus sizable roles in three movies to be produced by Lerner’s Millennium films. Newton would receive $3.5 million toward the budget of Nicole & O.J., a film about the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson with Kirk starring, Newton directing and Ratner producing. Newton and Kirk shot only about 25 minutes of that film before running short of financing.
A version of this story appeared in the Nov. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Nov. 17, 1:50 pm Updated with a statement from Tsujihara’s personal attorney.
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