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Miramax, Weinstein Co. Talk Potential Merger (Exclusive)

Other partnership possibilities in discussion to revive Miramax library

Settling in for lunch about two weeks ago in Saint-Tropez, Harvey Weinstein sat across from the former rival who took away his prized Miramax just three years before.

Weinstein and Tom Barrack, the head of Colony Capital who outbid Weinstein to buy Miramax in 2010, have discussed merging the two companies  — an idea that execs from both shingles have been discussing for several weeks – or forming another strong partnership that gives Weinstein more control over the library he helped build from the ground up.

A partnership would also give Miramax a way to produce something it may need: new content.

Miramax and the Weinstein Co. declined to comment.

Since coming under new ownership in 2010, Miramax hasn’t been quite as productive as many observers expected it to be. Barrack’s group of investors purchased the library for $663 million, but have spent the past three years milking the company’s some 700 titles through various licensing deals.

Observers called the original pricetag crazy, foolish, or both, and the jury’s still out on whether Barrack’s gamble has paid off. If it hasn’t, Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s familiarity with Miramax’s 700-some titles mean that the brothers may know the best way to create new content out of the existing IP.

For the past three years, Miramax’s owners have licensed the library through deals with Netflix, Hulu, Lionsgate, Facebook and others. While the company has flirted with the idea of delving into production – and announced at least three new projects – the company hasn’t actually added any new content thus far. And without that, many observers and insiders say that Miramax’s value is something of a melting iceberg.

In 2011, Miramax raised $500 million through a film-backed securitization that valued the company at more than $800 million. That figure was based largely on revenue the company anticipated from future television and digital licensing agreements. While Miramax has paid off roughly 40% of that debt, according to two insiders, some observers still question whether Miramax’s licensing deals have over-exploited a library that has added no new content.

But Miramax has no strong creative leadership and lost two of its top executives in unexpected shakeups. Former CEO and News Corp. vet Mike Lang abruptly ankled the company in March of 2012, only to be briefly replaced by former Colony Capital principal Richard Nanula. Nanula left his post in June in the wake of a sex tape scandal and sexual harassment lawsuit.

Barrack immediately took up the chairman role at Miramax and has maintained that the Santa Monica-based company is doing just fine.

“All is great at Miramax and it has been extremely profitable!” Barrack said via email in June. “It was, is and continues to be a fabulous investment!! Lots of good news to come including production!!”

But some insiders close to Miramax have suggested otherwise amidst persistent rumblings that some of Miramax’s investors, including the Qatar Investment Authority, have been dissatisfied with the company’s performance.

A TWC-Miramax pairing would be the second time that Weinstein has made peace with a former enemy in recent weeks. On Tuesday, news broke that TWC would produce eight-book series “Artemis Fowl” for Disney. Weinstein parted ways with the Mouse House on poor terms in 2005, leaving Miramax behind.

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