By Greg Roumeliotis and Jessica DiNapoli
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Weinstein Company has entered talks to sell the bulk of its assets to private equity firm Colony Capital, the companies said on Monday, as the film production company looks for stability after firing co-founder Harvey Weinstein.
Co-Chairman Bob Weinstein, Harvey's brother and fellow co-founder, on Friday had denied the firm was seeking to sell or shut down following Harvey Weinstein's dismissal after a number of women went public to accuse him of sexually harassing or assaulting them over the past three decades.
Colony Capital, which has about $20 billion in assets under management, will provide an immediate capital infusion into The Weinstein Co and is in talks to buy all or a significant portion of its assets, the companies said in a statement.
The Weinstein Co confirmed its board is to meet on Tuesday. No further details of the meeting were available. The board has shrunk to only three people following the resignation and departure of five others in the wake of the accusations against Weinstein, trade publication Deadline reported over the weekend.
Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.
One of Hollywood's most influential forces since launching in October 2005, The Weinstein Co produces and distributes films, including such hits as "The King's Speech," "Silver Linings Playbook" and others. Its TWC Television arm produces the long-running reality series "Project Runway." It does not operate a film studio, and as such has few physical assets.
If the deal goes through, it will be familiar territory for Thomas Barrack, the founder and executive chairman of Colony Capital and a friend of Donald Trump who chaired the U.S. president's inaugural committee.
Colony Capital and the Qatar Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, in 2010 bought the Miramax studio, the original studio founded by the Weinstein brothers, in 1979. The two brothers sold Miramax to Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) in 1993. Last year, Colony and Qatar Investment sold Miramax to Qatar-based BeIN Media Group.
Like Miramax, the value of The Weinstein Co likely lies in its library of movie hits, which are in demand by traditional TV networks and online streaming services.
The Weinstein Co handed control of hundreds of films to Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) and insurance company Assured Guaranty Ltd (AGO.N) when it overhauled its balance sheet to avoid bankruptcy in 2010, while retaining ownership of 150 films, Reuters reported at the time.
Goldman Sachs later offloaded its control of the library to AMC Networks (AMCX.O), which still owns a stake in the library, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.
Colony Capital and The Weinstein Co made no mention in their statement on Monday of a possible deal value.
According to a source familiar with the talks, there are a couple of deal structures under consideration. One would involve Colony's outright acquisition of all of The Weinstein Co or its major assets, including what it sees as the more attractive TV operations, with an escrow account being negotiated to cover legal liabilities.
Another option is for The Weinstein Co to file for bankruptcy with Colony as a “stalking horse” bidder to buy it or its major assets. That would shield Colony from having to assume The Weinstein Co's legal liabilities.
MEGA-PRODUCER SHUNNED BY PEERS
There is also the question of what The Weinstein Co is without Harvey Weinstein, the elder of the two brothers and the aggressive dealmaker and wrangler of Hollywood talent, money and egos - and the one credited with conceiving the strategy that scored dozens of Oscar awards for the company's films.
Last year, Harvey Weinstein told The Hollywood Reporter that the privately held company was worth $700 million to $800 million, including the film library, and that it had no debt.
There are no public filings on which to assess the likely value of the company or its debt load. Opus Bank (OPB.O) was one of several banks that funded a $400 million credit facility to Weinstein Co in August 2016, but it is unclear if the company tapped the facility.
The cash infusion comes after more of the Weinstein Co's partners have cut ties in recent days. Goldman Sachs said on Friday it was exploring options for its stake in the company, which is worth less than $1 million.
Hachette Book Group, the U.S. publishing house of French group Lagardere (LAGA.PA), terminated the Weinstein Books imprint on Thursday.
Colony's cash infusion will "stabilise the company's current operations, as well as provide comfort to our critical distribution, production and talent partners around the world," the companies said in the statement.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled Weinstein on Saturday, a sharp smack for a Hollywood mogul so closely associated with Oscar gold. The Weinsteins together have received 341 Oscar nominations and won 81 Academy Awards for their films.
On Monday, the Producers Guild of America said it had begun the process of terminating Weinstein's membership after a unanimous vote by its board of directors and officers. Weinstein will be given until Nov. 6 to respond to the decision.
Colony Capital is the private equity arm of Colony NorthStar Inc (CLNS.N), a real estate investment trust that has holdings in healthcare, industrial and hospitality sectors. Colony NorthStar shares closed up 0.2 percent on Monday.
(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotos and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Additional reporting by Jessica Toonkel and Anna Driver in New York, Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru and Piya Sinha-Roy in Los Angeles; Writing by Bill Rigby and Mary Milliken; Editing by Leslie Adler)