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The Weinstein Company is in the process of selling its television division to ITV, the British broadcaster that has been on a buying spree of late, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
The deal, if it is finalized, could be worth as much as $950 million. It includes an up-front payment of $300 to $400 million and an escalating package of compensation and bonuses that would nearly triple the initial purchase price, according to sources. TWC would remain as managers of the company, which has hired several new television executives to oversee the growth.
The Weinstein Co. did not respond to a request for comment. An ITV spokesperson said: “We do not comment on speculation.”
Weinstein co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, known for his Oscar-winning films such as this year’s The Imitation Game, has made television a priority in recent years. In addition to the Project Runway franchise on Lifetime, the privately-held company currently has on the air Myrtle Manor on TLC and Mob Wives on VH1. In the scripted space, its pricey Marco Polo series was recently renewed by Netflix for a second season. Several projects are also in production: a Scream series at MTV, a War and Peace miniseries with the BBC, and Peaky Blinders, which aired on BBC but Weinstein brought to Netflix. The Reaper was recently ordered straight to series as a mini at NBC.
ITV, a top UK broadcaster and production company, has been in buying mode for the the past three years. In March, it paid more than $500 million for John De Mol‘s Dutch production company, Talpa, home of formats for The Voice and Utopia, among others. That acquisition followed a $360 million deal for a controlling stake in Pawn Stars producer Leftfield Entertainment Group, as well as a joint venture for Tomorrow ITV Studios with Marty Adelstein, and deals for a controlling stake in Duck Dynasty producer Gurney Prods, Hatfields & McCoys producer Thinkfactor Media; Teen Wolf producer DiGa Vision; Cake Boss maker High Noon; as well as several smaller UK companies.
ITV mostly has focused on unscripted production companies, but with Weinstein Co., it would acquire a TV player with its fingers in both reality and lucrative scripted productions. Weinstein’s access to top filmmakers and other talent earned through decades as an A-list film producer and executive could be a boon to ITV as well. In addition to the shows on the air, sources say Weinstein also has several scripted projects in development which boosted its attractiveness to ITV. It is working with producer Jason Blum and filmmaker Scott Derrickson on The Breathing Method, a miniseries adaptation of a Stephen King novella that was initially planned as a movie, as well as Book of the Dead, a collaboration with Homeland executive producer Patrick Harbinson.
To manage that growth, Weinstein is said to have hired several new executives. Megan Spanjian has joined from CBS; Mark Velez, who worked on Empire, has joined from Imagine Television; Patrick Reardon is running the unscripted division; and Brad Small, a lawyer formerly of the Bloom Hergott firm, has joined as head of television business affairs. Melissa Wells is coming from UTA to head creative partnerships with talent and Barbara Schneeweiss is svp production.
Investment bank Allen & Co. has been shopping the Weinstein Co. division for the past few months with counsel from Weinstein’s CAA agents. ITV is a natural buyer because it has been in the market for a top-level scripted TV division. It has also been kicking the tires at the Mark Gordon Co. (Grey’s Anatomy), among others.
Sources say plans also are coming together for ITV to be involved in a digital fashion channel based on Weinstein’s experience with Runway. In addition, Weinstein’s wife, Georgina Chapman, is an acclaimed fashion designed. The company has been talking with Yahoo and Amazon regarding the channel.
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