Bigtime bankroll

Goldman Sachs funding the Weinsteins

This article was updated on May 20, 2005.

CANNES — They don’t even have a name for the company, but Bob and Harvey are already in business.

In an 11th hour announcement from Cannes, the brothers Weinstein said that they have entered into an agreement with affiliates of Goldman, Sachs to provide their media company with an unspecified investment and financing commitment.

On a conference call that began late Thursday night Cannes time, the Weinsteins and Goldman’s managing director Joe Ravitch said that the parties will work closely together over the coming months to launch a new company in October, with the release of the Clive Owen-Jennifer Aniston starrer “Derailed,” after the Weinsteins exit their Disney-owned Miramax Films in September.

Weinsteins also said that they have snapped up three pics from producers Dino de Laurentiis, Martha de Laurentiis and Tarak Ben Ammar and now have a commitment from Ben Ammar to invest in their company.

Specific terms of the transactions were not disclosed, though Ravitch said the parties had signed binding agreements Thursday and that Goldman “both invested equity and would be acting as financial advisers to the (Weinsteins’) company.” Bank will be providing debt financing as well.

The De Laurentiis pics the Weinsteins have acquired for North American distribution are “The Decameron,” “Last Legion” and “Young Hannibal.”Ben Ammar’s Quinta entity put together financing for all three films, which combine for an overall budget of $185 million.

Ben Ammar — an adviser to Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, Silvio Berlusconi, Rupert Murdoch and Vincent Bollore — is expected to join the board of directors of the Weinsteins’ venture and further back the company financially, in part by adding other films to the Weinsteins’ slate.

“This company is up and running,” declared Ben Ammar, who is also a member of the board of directors of Italian bank Mediobanc, on a conference call. “We envision we will invest, putting other investments like films in there.” He also said he’d be providing a “European link” to the new venture.

News came on the heels of an announcement from the Weinsteins that they have sealed a relationship with Cablevision’s Rainbow Media that pairs the two companies in homevid, foreign sales and the creation of a new film library (Daily Variety, May 19).

Keeping their names in the headlines during an otherwise slow Cannes for pickups, the brothers acquired pics including Chen Kaige’s “The Promise,” the CGI pic “Hoodwinked!,” as well as properties “Outlander,” “Stormbreaker,” “Transamerica” and “Nomad.”

As for the newest acquisitions, “Decameron,” directed by David Leland, stars Hayden Christensen and Mischa Barton in Boccaccio’s tale of romance, passion and adventure amongst Italian nobles during the time of the Florentine Plague.

“Last Legion,” directed by Doug Lefler, stars Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley and will start production in August. It’s the tale of a warrior named Aurelius who must protect the young Caesar when ancient Rome falls to the Goths.

“Young Hannibal,” directed by Peter Webber (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”), is the prequel to the Hannibal Lecter series and tells the story of the formative years of the serial killer. Pic is based on the upcoming book “Behind the Mask” by Thomas Harris, to be published this fall by Random House.

The Weinsteins have been angling to raise as much as $1 billion to fund their venture, a planned multimedia company with its fingers in broadcasting, film production and distribution and the online biz.

The Weinsteins said that they are not using money from their Disney settlement as funding for the company.

Harvey Weinstein would not elaborate on what the brothers’ ultimate distribution plan is, but their Rainbow announcement included the possibility of moving pics theatrically through IFC Films, with which they earlier partnered on Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” and French import “Les Choristes.”

The Weinsteins’ slate will kick off with “Derailed,” followed by horror pic “Wolf Creek,” Stephen Frears’ “Mrs. Henderson” and Kaige’s “The Promise.”

Announcement was made in dramatic fashion in Cannes, with Bob and Harvey Weinstein calling into a conference call from AmFAR’s Cannes fund-raiser at the Moulins de Mougin.

“We came to buy our first movie here 25 years ago,” said Harvey Weinstein. “Getting these deals done in Cannes was a goal.”

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