This story first appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
If Harvey Weinstein is panicking about the loss of three top Weinstein Co. executives in a single week, he isn’t letting on. “We got our ass kicked in 2008,” Weinstein admits in an interview with THR to address rumors about TWC’s health. “But, no bullshit, I think the company financially is the best it’s ever been right now.”
It’s certainly more nimble. On July 30, David Glasser, who for six years has served as Harvey’s loyal right-hand man and TWC’s chief operating officer, revealed he will leave the company in November. Days later, Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, who four years ago founded the TWC boutique label Radius and orchestrated the release of the past two Oscar-winning docs (20 Feet From Stardom and Citizenfour), said they are leaving to start a new distribution company. Julie Rapaport, a senior vp of production, was next to make a move — exiting for a new post at Amazon Studios. They follow the 2014 exits of such top execs as TV president Meryl Poster and marketing head Stephen Bruno. Coming in the wake of failed talks for British broadcaster ITV to buy the company’s TV division, The Weinstein Co., which Harvey and brother Bob founded in 2005 after they left Miramax, appeared to have hit another critical juncture.
Weinstein, 63, says he has moved quickly to staunch the bleeding, promoting a half-dozen execs and beginning a search for Glasser’s replacement. But observers wonder if the exodus is a sign of broader issues at the company, which has not been as active a buyer as usual on the festival circuit. “It’s sad to lose Tom and Jason and especially David, and in good part because of them — especially David — they are leaving us in great shape,” insists Weinstein. “The TV company is a serious producer of great revenue. We’ve also diversified into animation. And look at the film lineup, we have a lot set and locked in place.”
As for any speculation that TWC is experiencing a cash crunch — some sources say Harvey pegged his future on the ITV pact and that the company has been slow to pay up on talent deals — Glasser, who joined Weinstein in the interview, jumped in to say, “When you’re in the acquisitions business, that’s just standard protocol. You don’t see us sitting out there with 20, 10 or even one vendor in a legal dispute, so I don’t know where that stems from.”
As evidence of TWC’s viability, Weinstein trumpets his ramped-up TV slate. Scream and Marco Polo have been renewed by MTV and Netflix, respectively. Project Runway (Lifetime) has produced three spinoffs. And TWC is partnering with ITV to co-finance a 10-part series, Mafiya, about Russian gangsters in Moscow in the 1990s. But for many of its shows, TWC functions as a producer-for-hire rather than the owner of the lucrative format, limiting the financial upside.
The deal for ITV to buy TWC’s TV business may have fallen apart — Weinstein declined to discuss why — but he insists the exercise benefited TWC by placing a valuation of as much as $950 million on the unit. He’s still looking to strike a TV deal, though he says he’s changed his mind on an outright sale: “We’re either looking to partner or joint venture. I don’t know about selling. We’d probably get fired after two years.”
Weinstein vows that TWC will maintain the Radius label, which distributed 12 smaller films in 2014, but “I don’t think we’ll do as many films, maybe four or five good ones, and our acquisition team will cover it along with the Radius team.” Some financial sources have speculated that Weinstein could make a play for Miramax now that its current owners, Qatar Holding and Colony Capital, are themselves exploring a sale. “It’s an attractive asset because of its steady cash flow, and it also holds sentimental value given that it is named after their parents, Max and Miriam,” says one outside source, “but Weinstein would need to find a deep-pocketed partner to bid on it.” For his part, Harvey says, “We’re not going to buy it, because we have to have our priorities elsewhere, but we’d love to manage it for somebody because we know where the gold is.” (In 2013, TWC did enter a co-production deal with Miramax to develop properties in the 700-film Miramax library.)
Weinstein has had several midrange movie hits this year, including Paddington ($260 million worldwide), Woman in Gold ($51 million) and Southpaw ($50 million). On the slate is the actioner No Escape, starring Owen Wilson; the family drama About Ray, in which Elle Fanning plays a transgender teen; Burnt, the Bradley Cooper–Sienna Miller chef comedy; and awards plays Carol, the women-in-love drama starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and Quentin Tarantino‘s Hateful Eight. Beyond that, the 2016 lineup includes such titles as Hands of Stone, a boxing drama starring Edgar Ramirez as Roberto Duran; The Founder, with Michael Keaton as McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc; and the mining adventure Gold, starring Matthew McConaughey and Michelle Williams. “If you look at the slate that Harvey has in front of him, and even go out until the end of next year, it’s single-handedly one of the best slates the company has had,” Glasser testifies.
Insisting that his own decision to leave was strictly personal, Glasser adds, “Bob and Harvey and I have a spectacular relationship. It just came the time that I was ready to move on. My kids are getting older. And I’ve done everything here that I wanted to do.”
While Weinstein searches for Glasser’s replacement, he attributes the fact that he has promoted so many other execs from within to a deep bench rather than to an inability to attract outside candidates. “I know I’m not easy to work for,” he says, “but at a certain point, I am easy to work for after a baptism by fire.”