Weinstein Co. Saga Comes to an End as $289 Million Sale to Lantern Closes
Founded in 2005 by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, The Weinstein Co. had big ambitions that never came to fruition and, amid scandal and bankruptcy, the saga now comes to an end as new owners take over.
With its $289 million sale to Lantern Capital Partners having closed today, the Weinstein Co. saga comes to an end. Co-founded by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein in 2005 with plans to become a major multimedia company, TWC — despite back-to-back best picture Oscar wins for The King’s Speech and The Artist as well as several Emmy trophies for shows like Project Runway— never lived up to all its grand ambitions. And, having struggled financially in recent years, it was forced into bankruptcy in the wake of the dozens of allegations surrounding Harvey Weinstein, who has since been charged with six counts of sexual assault and rape in Manhattan.
“Over the last several months, we have immersed ourselves in the formation of Lantern Entertainment,” said Lantern Entertainment co-presidents Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic as they announced the completion of the deal. “Throughout all our conversations with employees, creatives and industry professionals, we are inspired by the collective commitment and support extended to the launch of our new company, which is anchored by creativity in a meritocracy-based culture. Across all disciplines, we are extremely motivated to become a forward-thinking force in this industry.”
The pair added: “We thank our employees and look forward to collaborating with them as we set out to produce the most compelling content for audiences worldwide, across all media platforms. Today, we turn the page to begin anew. We are grateful.”
Moving forward the company will be known as Lantern Entertainment and will boast a library of more than 270 films as well as unreleased movies. Among the titles in Lantern Entertainment's film library are Oscar best picture winners The King’s Speech and The Artist as well as box-office hits Inglourious Basterds, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained and genre franchises Scary Movie and Children of the Corn.
Private equity firm Lantern Capital’s Texas-based co-founders Mitchell and Brajovic were originally part of a $500 million bid led by former Obama administration official Maria-Contreras Sweet and billionaire Ron Burkle, and when that bid fell apart in March, they launched their successful stalking horse bid. Though their focus is on turning around distressed companies, the execs have no previous Hollywood experience and are expected to find a CEO to oversee the business. Earlier this week, they brought aboard a trio of senior advisors with extensive film and TV résumés — Steve Beeks, the former co-president and co-COO of Lionsgate Entertainment; Alexa Platt, who previously served as CFO of Open Road Films; and Lauren Zalaznick, who was most recently executive vp at NBCUniversal.
In a memo they sent in May to reassure TWC employees — who now number about 50, down from 140 when the bankruptcy process began as a result of both departures and layoffs — the Lantern partners said, “Lantern shares a deep appreciation for entertainment and all creative arts. It is our responsibility to protect the years of hard work and dedication contained within the Weinstein Company’s film and television libraries.
In advance of the sale, four of the remaining TWC board members — chairman Bob Weinstein, Lance Maerov, Tarak Ben Ammar and Frank Rainone — said they would step down once the sale was complete. Remaining on the board is Ivona Smith, who specializes in corporate restructuring and who joined the board in April. Bob Weinstein has been expected to start his own venture named Watch This, a favorite phrase of his.
When they first set up The Weinstein Co. with a $1.2 billion war chest in 2005, the Weinsteins hoped to duplicate and even exceed the success they’d enjoyed with Miramax, which they created in 1979 and which helped to define and then often to dominate the indie film scene throughout the '90s and 2000s. Having sold that company to Disney for $60 million in 1993, the brothers came to chafe under the controls that Disney attempted to exert over both budgets and content. One flash point was Michael Moore’s 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which Harvey Weinstein financed over the objections of then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner and which he then bought back from Disney and released through Lionsgate. In 2005, the Weinstein reached a $130 million settlement and left Disney behind, taking with them the Dimension Films genre label, run by Bob Weinstein, as well as a number of films like Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.
Not content to focus on just film production and distribution, Harvey Weinstein envisioned grander plans for TWC, continuing to expand into television and then taking a stake in home entertainment company Genius Products in 2005; acquiring a stake in the social media site A Small World, described as “MySpace for millionaires,' in 2006; buying the Halston fashion label in 2007; and investing in Broadway shows. With debt piling up, TWC averted bankruptcy by working out a major restructuring with Goldman Sachs in 2010, and ever since then Harvey Weinstein had repeatedly vowed he was refocusing his energies on the film business. Even so, TWC was forced to continually trim its sails, especially after a proposed sale of its TV assets for as much as $950 million to British TV giant ITV fell apart in 2015.
Along the way, TWC did rack up a number of hits, including Tarantino’s 2012 Django Unchained, which grossed $425 million worldwide; 2010’s The King’s Speech, directed by Tom Hooper ($414 million); Tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious Basterds ($321 million); Paul King’s 2015 Paddington ($268 million); David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook ($236 million); Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game ($235 million); and 2013’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler ($177 million). But the company also released dozens of films to negligible returns, while shelving many others.
Even before he was enveloped by scandal, Harvey Weinstein’s golden touch when it came to courting Oscar had begun to lose its luster. Between their days at Miramax and TWC, the Weinsteins have claimed 341 Oscar nominations and 81 Academy Award wins. When the nominations for the 88th Oscars were announced in 2016, TWC collect 10 nominations for Carol and The Hateful Eight, but no best picture or director noms. And while the list of 2017 nominations saw Lion score six nominations, including best picture, the company’s other awards hopeful The Founder was shut out.
Now, it will be up to Lantern and the leadership it appoints to pick up the pieces. During the course of the bankruptcy proceedings, a deal was struck to move Project Runway from Lifetime back to Bravo, where it originally aired. And there are a number of unreleased films that have been stuck in limbo — period drama The Current War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch; biblical tale Mary Magdalene, starring Rooney Mara; and the odd-couple comedy The Upside, starring Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston — that could be sold off to other distributors.