Weinstein Co. Enlists Law Firm to Investigate Harvey Weinstein Claims

Harvey Weinstein Zurich Film Festival - Getty - H 2017
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Co-chairman Bob Weinstein and COO David Glasser will head TWC in Harvey's absence.

While Harvey Weinstein takes an "indefinite leave of absence" from The Weinstein Co., the board has hired an outside law firm to investigate sexual harassment accusations made against its co-chairman. 

In Harvey Weinstein's absence, the company will be run by his brother and TWC co-chairman Bob Weinstein and COO David Glasser.

Additionally, three members of the nine-member, all-male board of The Weinstein Co. have now resigned. They include Dirk Ziff, Tim Sarnoff and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, who joined the board when former Cablevision CEO (and close friend of Harvey Weinstein) James Dolan vacated his seat in June 2016.

Following the Oct. 5 New York Times report detailing decades worth of misconduct on the part of the flamboyant mogul, the TWC board held a contentious emergency meeting Thursday night at which Weinstein pled his case. Today, the board reconvened to decide on both Weinstein's immediate fate and how the company should move forward.

Saying that it takes the accusations "extremely seriously," the board revealed that TWC has retained John Kiernan of the firm of Debevoise & Plimpton "to undertake a thorough and independent investigation." Kiernan will be assisted by his partners Matthew Fishbein, a former chief assistant U.S. attorney, and Helen Cantwell, a former federal prosecutor who also has worked for the New York County District Attorney's sex crimes unit.

The board did not say how long Weinstein's leave of absence, which he volunteered to take yesterday, would last and under exactly what conditions he might eventually return to the company. Rather, it said that it endorsed his decision to take a leave in order "to get professional help for the problems he has acknowledged." It said that his future with the company will depend on his "therapeutic progress, the outcome of the board's independent investigation, and Harvey's own personal decisions."

The statement issued today was signed by four members of the board, who said they represent a majority of the current board. They included Bob Weinstein, whose relations with his brother are said by knowledgeable sources to have become severely strained; financier Tarak Ben Ammar, an early investor in TWC who is said to have been unhappy with the company's direction for some time; Lance Maerov, senior vp corporate development at advertising and public relations firm WPP, who has also expressed concerns about the company; and Richard Koenigsberg.

The full board, as of yesterday, was composed of nine members, including Harvey Weinstein, who presumably did not take part in today's vote. With Ziff, Sarnoff and Lasry having resigned, the remaining board member whose name was not on today's statement is that of Paul Tudor Jones, who is expected to follow the others out the door. A representative of the board declined comment on the specifics of the vote.

Harvey Weinstein, in his appearance before the board, is said to have argued he could eventually ride out the current storm, insisting on assurances that if he took a leave of absence he would not be permanently banished from the company he co-founded with his brother in 2005. But ultimately the board refused to say when the leave of absence would end or under what terms. 

Instead, it took action that was clearly designed to send a signal to those with whom TWC does business — Hollywood filmmakers, talent, producers and agents — that the company is taking the situation seriously. And while TWC is currently more active in TV — where it produces series like the long-running Project Runway and the upcoming Paramount Network entries Waco and Yellowstone — than it is in film, it does have several movies scheduled for release that could be tarnished by the surrounding scandal like the family film Paddington 2, due Jan. 12, and the biblical drama Mary Magdalene, slated for March 30. 

Still, it's hard to envision The Weinstein Co. without Harvey Weinstein serving as its public face, a role he also played at the Weinsteins' first company, Miramax, which they ran from 1979 to 2005. Bob Weinstein, who oversees genre movies for the company's Dimension label, has always kept a lower profile, while Glasser, who has played a key role in dealmaking and running all aspects of the company, including its film slate, has also stayed behind the scenes.

The board's full statement follows:

The undersigned members of the Weinstein Company’s Board of Representatives, constituting a majority of the Board, make the following statement.

We take extremely seriously the accusations published in today’s New York Times about our Company’s co-chairman Harvey Weinstein. It is essential to our Company’s culture that all women who work for it or have any dealings with it or any of our executives are treated with respect and have no experience of harassment or discrimination.

We believe it is important to learn the full truth regarding the article’s very serious accusations, in the interests of the Company, its shareholders and its employees. To that end, we have retained an independent and leading lawyer and firm, John Kiernan of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, to undertake a thorough and independent investigation and report to the full Board on the results of that investigation. Working with Mr. Kiernan will be his partners Matthew Fishbein, former Chief Assistant United States Attorney for both the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, and Helen Cantwell, former prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and the New York County District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit, who have extensive experience in these kinds of investigations. The investigating lawyers will be reporting to a special committee of the board composed exclusively of independent directors

We strongly endorse Harvey Weinstein’s already-announced decision to take an indefinite leave of absence from the Company, commencing today. As Harvey has said, it is important for him to get professional help for the problems he has acknowledged. Next steps will depend on Harvey’s therapeutic progress, the outcome of the Board’s independent investigation, and Harvey’s own personal decisions.

In the meantime, the Company is under the leadership of its Co-Chairman, Bob Weinstein, and its Chief Operating Officer, David Glasser, who plan to proceed with business in the ordinary course.

Robert Weinstein
Tarak Ben Ammar
Lance Maerov
Richard Koenigsberg

Oct. 6, 5:53 p.m. Updated to include Marc Lasry and Tim Sarnoff's resignations from the board