Can the Weinstein Co. Survive Without Harvey Weinstein?
Execs Bob Weinstein and David Glasser have assumed control and are meeting with ad agencies to discuss a potential new name, but many believe the film and TV outfit will have trouble soldiering on after its co-founder's sexual harassment scandal.
With Harvey Weinstein fired as co-chairman of his namesake company, the leadership at The Weinstein Co. is racing to distance itself from the disgraced mogul. That rebranding effort may include announcing a new name in the next few days, although nothing is definite.
But can the film and television outfit survive without Harvey Weinstein, a larger-than-life figure who dominated the indie film scene for decades before being brought down by sexual harassment allegations? It is now up to TWC co-chairman Bob Weinstein, his brother, and president/COO David Glasser to forge a new path, along with the remaining board members, all at a time when the company was already facing financial pressure.
"When a leader is taken down, even a despot, it is going to take a while for people to find their bearings," says one veteran film executive who is currently doing business with TWC. "There are a lot of really good and smart people working there and it is a company that does interesting movies. But there do need to be fundamental changes to survive beyond the short-term."
On Monday, staff at the company were given the day off as Glasser and Bob Weinstein met with ad agencies to discuss ideas for a potential new name. And they reached out to multiple television networks and granted them permission to remove Harvey Weinstein's name from the credits of TWC-produced shows, beginning with Wednesday's episode of Lifetime's Project Runway. (Glasser and Bob Weinstein also contacted filmmakers to allay any concerns, according to one producer.) Elsewhere, Apple ditched plans for a four-show deal with TWC that included scripted miniseries about Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Prince and Frank Sinatra.
If Harvey Weinstein hadn't been ousted by the TWC board Oct. 8, a talent exodus certainly would have followed. Many with film, TV and publishing projects in development would likely have looked for legal outs for existing contracts if Weinstein stayed. Those mulling new deals — particularly high-profile women — would have faced merciless scrutiny if they partnered in any way with TWC while Weinstein remained in the fold. On Monday, Meryl Streep and Judi Dench, who have worked closely with him over the years, denounced his alleged behavior.
But Weinstein was also the face of the company, and a celebrity in his own right. If he believed in an awards-season contender, he worked the Academy and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association like no one else, as evidenced by the recent campaigns for Lion, The Imitation Game and Silver Linings Playbook.
Conversely, Bob Weinstein has never been comfortable in the public spotlight. Glasser has been the company's No. 2, helping with dealmaking and running day-to-day operations, as well as aiding Harvey Weinstein in shepherding the film slate, including acquisitions. Glasser is certainly well-known in indie film circles and nobody in the industry wants to see an established distributor go by the wayside.
Glasser is said to have been more involved in the day-to-day TV business with key relationships among show creators and network executives alike. There's speculation the company could morph into a TV player or genre player. “Bob is a genre guy. What he is not is an awards guy,” said one agency partner.
But the big question is if TWC’s financing will hold, one TV exec with knowledge of the company says. On the TV side, Amazon and TWC's cable partners foot most of the bills. (Sources say Amazon paid $160 million for two seasons of a David O. Russell drama series produced by The Weinstein Co.) TWC's TV slate includes Paramount Network's Waco miniseries and Yellowstone, among others. Kevin Costner is receiving a $500,000 pay day for each of Yellowstone's 10 episodes.
TWC headquarters have long been in New York City, where Harvey Weinstein lives. Both his brother and Glasser live in Los Angeles, prompting one source to suggest that the axis of power could shift to the company's Beverly Hills office. Also, they could bring in a well-known executive to help run the company (there's speculation it would be a woman).
Weinstein's career disintegrated within 72 hours of publication of an Oct. 5 New York Times story detailing the sexual harassment claims. Actress Ashley Judd was one of those who went on the record. Without admitting to the accusations, Weinstein told the Times he intended to seek counseling and take a leave of absence. But when the TWC board — where Bob Weinstein has a seat — met later that same night, Weinstein expressed reservations about stepping aside temporarily. The next day, the board hired an outside law firm to conduct an internal investigation and announced that Harvey Weinstein would be taking an indefinite leave of absence.
But that plan quickly unraveled after TV news reporter Lauren Sivan told HuffPost how the mogul had cornered her in a New York City restaurant a decade ago, masturbated and ejaculated into a potted plant. She was among several women who came forward with their own stories following publication of the Times story.
On Sunday, the board voted to terminate Harvey Weinstein. He hasn't yet commented on his firing, or whether he will fight it. But in a personal email sent to multiple high-level Hollywood executives sometime before Sunday's meeting, he asked for letters opposing his firing. "I am desperate for your help," wrote Weinstein, who owns a 21.5 percent stake in TWC. He also warned, "We believe what the board is trying to do is not only wrong but might be illegal and would destroy the company."
TWC's upcoming slate includes The Current War (Nov. 24), an industrial-age drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse; Paddington 2 (Jan. 2); The Upside (March 9); and Mary Magdalene (March 30).
"Nobody would have made a movie with them if Harvey remained in place," says Wall Street analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners. "But I imagine the company will have a tougher time going after award season nominations without Harvey bulling his way through to lobby voters."