Weinstein Co.'s Leading Bidder Could Provide Female Ownership

Maria Contreras-Sweet attends a reception at Equator Coffees - Getty-H 2017
J. Countess/Getty Images for SBA

Maria Contreras-Sweet, now backed by Ron Burkle, could buy the company with a group of female Silicon Valley investors and install a women-led board as Bob Weinstein eyes a new company of his own.

Harvey Weinstein's former company, owned and run by women?

It could happen under a plan gathering steam, according to sources close to the Weinstein Co. auction process.

A potentially winning bid for the beleaguered film and television company from Maria Contreras-Sweet, who ran the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama, has attracted backing from investor Ron Burkle.

Contreras-Sweet has put together a group of investors, which include women from Silicon Valley as well as Lantern Asset Management, which would take a 51 percent stake in a reorganized TWC, assume the current company’s debts and also set up a litigation fund to handle any claims not covered by insurance.

Contreras-Sweet's plan would include installing a female-majority board to oversee the company.

TWC declined to comment, and sources say the Contreras-Sweet-led bid is not a done deal. But she is said to be scouting properties in Los Angeles, including the offices of recently shuttered Broad Green Pictures, which could house a new incarnation of TWC.

If the Contreras-Sweet bid is successful, TWC co-founder Bob Weinstein would be given certain assets. He is expected to then start his own company, which a source says is tentatively named Watch This, a favorite phrase of his. Weinstein declined to comment.

While the TWC board has been reviewing offers for the past two weeks, a source says a late bid from Miramax, the Weinstein brothers' original company, which is now controlled by the beIN Media Group, also remains on the table, as well as offers from other prospective buyers such as Lionsgate and Len Blavatnik, who is owed some $50 million from TWC.

A source says the plan would be to retain most of TWC’s current staff of about 150, led by COO David Glasser, and create an employee-friendly campus with amenities such as complimentary meals.

While a spokesman for Burkle told The Hollywood Reporter in October that “we have not made any overtures” for TWC, the billionaire is now believed to be backing the Contreras-Sweet bid, according to sources.

Burkle has long-standing ties to ousted TWC co-founder Harvey Weinstein, having invested in such TWC films as August: Osage County and The Giver. In 2015, he considered making a play for the then-financially challenged TWC and merge it with Independent Talent Group, a U.K. agency in which he has a significant interest.

At the time, Burkle's reps neither confirmed nor denied his interest to THR, saying only that "Ron thinks very highly of Harvey." Since October, when exposés in The New York Times and The New Yorker's charged Weinstein with decades of sexual assault and harassment, the future of the company has been in question.

Weinstein was terminated from TWC, although he remains a shareholder.

With Harvey Weinstein’s name becoming toxic, TWC postponed several upcoming releases, such as the period drama The Current War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and it sold off domestic rights to the Paddington sequel to Warner Bros. for a reported $28 million to keep afloat.