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James Dolan, president and CEO of Cablevision and executive chairman of The Madison Square Garden Co., has quit his post on The Weinstein Co. board. But the company has moved quickly to replace him with hedge fund billionaire and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry.
Dolan’s exit comes as somewhat of a surprise, given that the Cablevision chief served for less than a year on the board. Dolan, a close friend of TWC co-founder Harvey Weinstein, had been brought in to replace Jeff Sackman on the nine-member board that had grown increasingly impatient with the company’s financial performance.
Lasry is co-founder and CEO of Avenue Capital Group, a New York-based hedge fund that manages assets valued at approximately $12 billion. Lasry is no stranger to famous names. Chelsea Clinton worked as an associate at Avenue Capital for three years up until 2009.
As for the reason for his sudden departure, Dolan cites day-to-day business dealings with MSG, MSG Networks and AMC Networks as well as his personal commitments to his family and music.
“The company is in good shape,” Dolan on Tuesday told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. “Harvey and Bob remain close personal friends, and I will continue to be supportive in any way I can. I wish my fellow board members continued success.”
Added Harvey Weinstein: “Jim Dolan is one of my and Bob’s [Weinstein] best friends. His insight into business has led us to grow an unbelievably successful TV division. He was the biggest impetus, years ago, for us getting into TV in a big way — we owe him for that. I appreciate all that Jim has done for the company. Bob and I are both looking forward to Marc Lasry joining the board in Jim’s place. Marc’s a brilliant businessman whose interest in companies all over the world will provide our board with valuable insight. Marc’s successes into the world of business are legendary and we will certainly profit as a company from his knowledge.”
An Avenue Capital spokesperson confirmed that Lasry is joining the board, which also includes the Weinstein brothers, Tarak Ben Ammar, Paul Tudor Jones, Richard Koenigsberg, Lance Maerov, Tim Sarnoff and Dirk Ziff. Ben Ammar has been a particularly adversarial force on the board, and Dolan had been brought in to tip the balance in the Weinstein brothers’ favor.
The shake-up comes four months after the high-profile defection of distribution president Erik Lomis to rival Annapurna Pictures. Other belt-tightening measures also are evident. In November, TWC cut loose 40-50 staffers. Since then, at least 10 additional staffers, ranging from assistants to midlevel executives to the company’s chief technology officer, also have left. In some cases, contracts expired and were not renewed. Chief technology officer Lew Rothman, a 10-year veteran of the company, is one of the highest-ranking executives to have left quietly.
Other exits in 2016 include Adrian Lopez, an executive vp business affairs, who joined Miramax, and Collin Creighton, a vp production and development, who went to Netflix.
Following news of Lomis’ exit, Harvey Weinstein downplayed the executive exodus, which also covered the entire Radius label staff including co-chiefs Tom Quinn and Jason Janego. “While I accept that some have left, look at the chronology of when they left and the strength of our films since then,” he told THR, pointing to The Imitation Game and Paddington. “We still had 10 Oscar nominations [nine for Carol and The Hateful Eight] this year, and next year’s [slate] is stronger than ever.”
The company continues to explore the sale of some of its assets.
The Weinstein Co.’s future releases include The Founder (starring Michael Keaton as McDonald’s mogul Ray Kroc) on Aug. 5, the boxing drama Hands of Stone on Aug. 26 and the Rooney Mara-Nicole Kidman tearjerker Lion in the prime awards-season slot of Nov. 25. But industry observers question whether the company has a deep enough bench to service all of those films and expects at least one to be sold off. In a sign of TWC’s recent struggles, John Carney’s Sing Street opened on April 15 to a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes but earned just $3 million domestically.
Meanwhile, other films, like the Cannes acquisition About Ray, hang in limbo. That film, which stars Naomi Watts, Elle Fanning and Susan Sarandon, was supposed to open in September but was moved off the schedule. A new date has yet to be announced.
But more troubling has been TWC’s box-office performance over the past year. A great deal was riding on Hateful Eight, which opened Christmas Day and earned an underwhelming $54 million domestically. Among the recent star-vehicle duds was John Wells’ cooking dramedy Burnt, starring Bradley Cooper, which earned just $14 million, and the Natalie Portman-led Western Jane Got a Gun, whose haul was a mere $1.5 million.
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