Weinsteins, Disney finalize divorce
This article was updated at 7:56 p.m.
NEW YORK — Disney gets the Miramax library, but Harvey and Bob Weinstein sail off into the sunset with a formidable slate of projects and plans to start a diverse new media company.
That’s the nub of the Mouse House-Miramax divorce settlement, which has been in disputatious negotiation for six months.
Harvey Weinstein said in a conference call Tuesday that the Weinsteins were setting out “to build a multimedia company, just like we have always wanted.” The new venture — temporarily dubbed the Weinstein Co. — will have its fingers in broadcasting, film production and distribution and the online biz.
The Weinsteins have so far agreed with Disney to potentially collaborate on as many as 25 projects that will be distribbed by the Weinsteins’ new unit.
Pics the two parties will work on together include the Jennifer Aniston-starrer “Derailed,” Stephen Frears’ “Mrs. Henderson,” Anthony Minghella’s “Breaking and Entering,” Pierce Brosnan starrer “The Matador,” a project called “Come Closer” and a new chapter in the “Scary Movie” franchise.
The Weinsteins’ new company will have as part of its own slate the Oz-set horror pic “Wolf Creek,” a sequel to Kevin Smith’s “Clerks,” the horror-thriller “Pulse,” the “Project Greenlight” pic “Feast” and projects from both Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.
The Weinsteins are taking with them as part of their exit package about $140 million, but they will use some of that money to buy back stakes in further projects from Disney.
The Weinsteins are angling to buy back 50% stakes in the Stephen King short story adaptation “1408,” which is in development, and the family film “Chestnut.”
The Weinsteins will further keep stakes Miramax had in the Ron Howard pic “Cinderella Man,” which Universal has domestically, and Disney’s upcoming “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise.
Though Harvey Weinstein would not comment on how much financial backing he expected to rake in over the coming weeks beyond saying it would be a “significant” amount, the brothers are apparently putting together deals behind the scenes to create what they called “a fully integrated media company.”
The Weinstein Co. already has an advisory panel of financial bigwigs, including Steve Rattner, Jim Dolan, Dirk Ziff, Paul Tudor Jones, Arnon Milchan, Mickey Drexler, Nelson Peltz, Tarak Ben Ammar, Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
The Weinsteins’ banner is putting together a deal that will give it a stake — that would be shared with Disney — in projects with animation studio Wild Brain, which develops and produces content for film, TV, commercials and interactive markets.
Also shared with Disney, the Weinsteins’ company will likely keep a stake in Niche Media, with publisher Jason Binn, to form a print presence.
The fate of Miramax Books is still unclear, but the Weinsteins did recently bring in Simon & Schuster’s Rob Weisbach into their fold, replacing Jonathan Burnham, who headed to HarperCollins.
The Weinsteins will also continue their presence on the Great White Way.
The brothers come away from the Mouse House with their stake in “The Wall,” a Broadway version of the Pink Floyd concept album, as well as rights to turn films such as “Shall We Dance” into musicals. The brothers and Miramax Films are current producers on “All Shook Up,” inspired by the tunes of Elvis Presley.
Amped for cable
The Weinsteins further revealed that the new company will pursue many of the goals Disney had blocked Miramax from achieving, including involvement with a cable network. Harvey Weinstein added that the company will have a new-media presence, without giving specifics
“I think we will be able to build a giant media company of our own,” Harvey Weinstein said.
The announcement of the split was made by the Weinsteins and Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook.
Cook said that the Weinsteins will remain on board at Miramax on a non-exclusive basis through Sept. 30, focusing on completing projects currently in production and overseeing the marketing and distribution of Miramax and Dimension films.
Cook added that he would be announcing new management for Miramax in July and that the Weinsteins would work with the new leadership, reporting directly to Cook, until their contract expires.
“Bob and Harvey are talented creative executives who have brought some of the finest award-winning films to the bigscreen,” said Cook in a statement. “Through this mutually beneficial arrangement, we will continue our relationship with the Weinsteins and their new company well into the future, while focusing our efforts on Miramax.”
Disney brass had only kind words and kudos for its departing duo. The studio’s chief financial officer Alan Bergman was circumspect to the point of being unintelligible when asked why relations had deteriorated to the point where a lucrative partnership had to be broken up.
Deals that got away
But Harvey Weinstein had lots to say, starting with deals he brought to Disney that were turned down, including cablers Bravo and IFC, Artisan Entertainment and “Lord of the Rings.” He said he thinks if he’d been allowed to pursue the deals he wanted, Miramax would now be a company worth $5 billion, not the $2 billion he figures is its current value.
In a dig at outgoing CEO Michael Eisner, Weinstein said he thinks his entrepreneurial efforts would be better received “at the new company” — under CEO-elect Bob Iger. “That’s the irony of this deal,” he said.
The Weinsteins’ contract ends in September, the same month Eisner is stepping down.
The ambitious scope of the new company was surprising, since the trend among media companies has been to downsize and shed assets, not combine them.
“New technology is something we’re going to embrace. We’re going to be on the cutting edge of that new technology,” Weinstein said.
While it’s not clear what the company means by new technology or the scope of investments it’s considering, the quote evoked the ill-fated Internet enthusiasm of the 1990s. And cable networks now cost a king’s ransom. Some of the hottest companies on Wall Street today are pure-play film companies like Pixar, DreamWorks Animation and Lions Gate.
Weinstein made it clear that the raft of talent following him meant his new venture would be “the ongoing company — as it was,” while Disney would create “a new company based around the library.”
He said giving up the Miramax name — which comes from his parents Miriam and Max — “was the toughest part of the negotiation” and indicated that “the last chapter” on that decision “may not have been written.”
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the final settlement, but both acknowledged how arduous it had been to reach. Harvey Weinstein praised Cook and Bergman for the successful outcome.
Harvey Weinstein also gave WMA’s Jim Wiatt credit for bringing the two sides together in a “quiet and extremely judicious way.” Wiatt had joined a team that had been hammering out the deal that included David Boies, Bert Fields, David Weil and Skip Brittenham, among other Miramax brass, as well as Cook and Bergman.
(Jill Goldsmith contributed to this report.)