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Harvey Weinstein Scandal May Cloud Company’s TV Activity, Sale Prospects

The Weinstein Co.’s television operations have been far more successful than the company’s feature business in the past few years. Harvey Weinstein has been adept at packaging projects and leveraging his connections to meet the voracious demand for TV content.

But that business is in jeopardy with the detailed revelations of alleged sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior that Weinstein allegedly exhibited in the context of his work as a producer.

The lengthy report published Thursday by the New York Times comes at a moment when mainstream media companies are extremely sensitive to criticism that they are engaging in or turning a blind eye to gender and racial discrimination. The persistent rumors about Weinstein’s alleged misconduct toward women have been a factor in the company’s unsuccessful effort to shop its TV division to prospective buyers.

The allegations leveled against Weinstein are so specific as to likely make it uncomfortable for Weinstein’s creative partners.

Oddly enough, one of those creative partners is his lawyer, Lisa Bloom, who has been an aggressive advocate for clients who have leveled sexual harassment claims against Fox News and other high-profile targets. Weinstein Co. is at work on a docu-series about the Trayvon Martin murder case that is based in part on Bloom’s book “Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It.”

Weinstein Co. has been looking to sell all or part of its TV division for the past two and a half years, amid a flurry of M&A activity around independent TV production entities of size.

With characteristic braggadocio, reports surfaced in 2015 that Weinsteins were seeking a $900 million valuation of the business — a number that led to much scoffing in TV circles. ITV, the U.K. TV giant that has been on a spending spree for production companies, engaged in talks but ultimately walked away. It didn’t help that the company’s big-budget Netflix drama “Marco Polo” was canceled after two seasons in late 2016.

The loss of “Marco Polo” was a blow because while Weinstein Co. has a lot of activity, it doesn’t have a big profit generator other than the long-running “Project Runway” franchise. Last year, Weinstein Co. retained investment banker Moelis & Co. to shop a 50% to 70% stake in the TV side but there’s been little chatter about it in investment circles. Weinstein and his brother Bob are under pressure to deliver return to investors who bankrolled the Weinstein Co. launch back in 2005.

At present, Weinstein Co. has a range of other scripted and unscripted projects spread among cable and streaming outlets, notably the long-running reality franchise “Project Runway” and its spinoffs on Lifetime. But the company’s level of involvement in its productions is varied.

Weinstein Co. is a production entity on Matthew Weiner’s upcoming Amazon anthology series “The Romanoffs” but Harvey Weinstein does not have an executive producer credit on the show and has not had creative input on the project, according to sources. “Romanoffs” is in the midst of filming, with Weiner in firm control as showrunner and director of all eight episodes.

Weinstein Co. is also a producer on the high-profile David O. Russell Amazon drama starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore. Weinstein has worked with Russell on numerous features but his level of involvement in the show is unclear.

Weinstein has been much more hands-on with two scripted projects in the works for Paramount Network (the remodeled Spike TV as of Jan. 18). He has been a big creative force behind the limited series “Waco” and “Yellowstone.” “Waco” recently wrapped production and is slated to bow Jan. 24, making it a big part of the Spike TV rebranding effort.

The Trayvon Martin series, a joint venture with Jay-Z, is in the midst of production.

Weinstein was front and center earlier this year on another docu-series project for Spike TV also produced with Jay-Z. “Time: The Kalief Browder” told the story of the young man who took his life after more than three years locked up on New York’s Rikers Island without a conviction. Weinstein and Jay-Z stumped for the movie at the Sundance Film Festival this year. They also appeared together on an hourlong live Spike TV town hall special discussing the issue of criminal justice reform and juvenile incarceration.

Weinstein Co. has produced a number of specials for Investigation Discovery — including one examining the history of sordid rape and harassment allegations against comedian Bill Cosby. A knowledgable source said Weinstein Co. has been mostly hands-off on those projects. Their involvement largely stems from the content partnership that Weinstein Co. struck in December 2015 with National Enquirer parent company American Media Inc., which provides the tabloid fodder for the specials.

At Lifetime sibling network History, Weinstein Co. is a producer on the military drama “Six.” It’s understood that there was significant tension and tussling among Harvey Weinstein, producers of the show and network execs over the final cut of episodes prior to the first season premiere in July 2016.

Representatives for A+E Networks and Paramount Network declined to comment on the allegations surrounding Weinstein. Reps for Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment.

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