4:52pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Producer Says He Was Frozen Out of Weinstein Co. Sale Because of Racism
The saga of The Weinstein Co. has moved from sexual misconduct to alleged racism as Marvin Peart has filed a $110 million lawsuit over the sale of the embattled company to Lantern Entertainment.
In a complaint filed on Monday, Peart identifies himself as an entertainment industry veteran who has held senior management positions at Sony Music and Flavor Unit Entertainment. He says he has also worked with TWC over the past decade to secure financing for slates of motion pictures and television programming. Peart alleges playing some role in helping Lantern get to the point of acquiring Weinstein Co. and asserts being entitled to fees pursuant to alleged agreements.
Lantern has "reneged" on promised compensation and a board seat, adds Peart in his complaint, and he's upset at how he's being written out of the script.
"What happened to Plaintiff is not just a matter of damages for breach of contract," states the complaint. "It is far more insidious. Peart is the latest striving African-American who has been cheated out of his hard-won right to occupy the winner's circle because of his race. Lantern's callous marginalization of Plaintiff is otherwise inexplicable."
Peart's lawsuit references slavery as the original sin of American history and the underrepresentation of African-Americans on the screen. He doesn't provide much factual support for racism being the motive at play here other than an alleged absence of minorities in the ranks of Lantern's senior management and a mere suspicion that racial animus best explains what happened. Indeed, there isn't even a discrimination cause of action in a complaint (read here) that seems largely designed for media consumption.
As for the contract and fraud claims, Peart says he began having discussions with potential Weinstein Co. buyers in October 2017, around the time The New York Times published its bombshell exposé about Harvey Weinstein. Peart "connected" with Lantern, and based on a belief they were the right buyers, Peart says he began talking with Weinstein Co. executives.
Peart and a colleague, Ivan Bajic, began trading emails with Milos Brajovic, Lantern's managing director. It's one particular discussion that forms the heart of the dispute.
According to the complaint, Brajovic sent an email that offered a 2 percent "introduction fee" to Peart and Bajic as compensation for connecting Lantern to TWC, after Peart's colleague proposed a 4 percent finders fee.
"The fee proposal is not market," responded Brajovic in an email. "We discussed something in this ball park that would have been justified if you and Marvin were leading the management of TWC and this would have been in line with a management incentive program. The situation as it stands today is neither exclusive nor a cheap 'no brainer'. It is a managed process by an investment bank known to us where our former HL colleagues are all over the situation. The other point which is not great is that you did not work exclusively with us."
The Lantern executive continues by noting potential value … if Lantern teamed up with Yucaipa, referring to Ron Burkle's investment fund.
"All of the above lead to the fact that a generous introduction fee would be 2%," wrote Brajovic. "If we can team up with Yupaica, there is value added."
Bajic wrote back and said the offer was "acceptable," that is, if it really was an offer. If so, what were the terms? There appears to be no long-form agreement, and what's more, Yupaica ended up not being a part of the acquisition team. Supposedly, Brajovic also "orally represented" at some point that Peart and Bajic would get a 3 percent fee instead of a 2 percent fee. Bajic also "assigned his interest in his portion of the introduction fee to Mr. Peart," according to the complaint.
Based on this supposed dealmaking, an open auction that happened under the supervision of a Delaware bankruptcy court, and a Weinstein Co. sale to Lantern that hasn't even closed yet, Peart is suing with tales of "cynical exploitation and racial animus."
He's represented by Pierce O'Donnell at Greenberg Glusker who attempts to make a case that Lantern wouldn't have been able to buy Weinstein Co. without Peart's involvement despite the debtors telling a bankruptcy court there weren't viable alternatives.