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Weinstein Company inches toward bankruptcy

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Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's former company has announced it will file for bankruptcy, complaining that talks with investors to buy the troubled studio had collapsed, leaving it with "no choice" but to go to the wall.

[NEW YORK] Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's former company has announced it will file for bankruptcy, complaining that talks with investors to buy the troubled studio had collapsed, leaving it with "no choice" but to go to the wall.

The Weinstein Company said that it had failed to reach a deal with an investor group led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, who served in Barack Obama's administration, for a reported US$500 million despite a last-minute push to make the deal palatable to New York prosecutors.

There has been no immediate comment from Ms Contreras-Sweet. Trade magazine Variety said the bankruptcy talk "came as a shock" to the investor group and that they were trying to determine whether there was any hope of proceeding with the deal.

In a two-page letter addressed to Ms Contreras-Sweet on Sunday, Weinstein Company representatives said they had worked "tirelessly" to accommodate principles laid out by New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman.

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The prosecutor sued the New York-headquartered firm earlier this month fearing that the imminent sale could leave Weinstein's victims without adequate redress.

Mr Schneiderman said any deal should provide adequate compensation for victims, protect employees and remove executives who had been complicit in Weinstein's misconduct.

In Sunday's letter, the company noted that they had sacked David Glasser, the former chief operating officer whom had been earmarked to stay under the buyout, but whom Mr Schneiderman said had covered up years of Weinstein's abuse.

The company complained that Ms Contreras-Sweet's group had neither kept its side of the bargain on Mr Schneiderman's principles nor paid interim funding required to run the business and maintain employees before the buyout was finalized.

"We must conclude that your plan to buy this company was illusory and would only leave this company hobbling toward its demise to the detriment of all constituents," read the letter, a copy of which AFP obtained.

"While we deeply regret that your actions have led to this unfortunate outcome for our employees, our creditors and any victims, we will now pursue the board's only viable option to maximize the company's remaining value: an orderly bankruptcy process."

'WANTED TO KILL HIM'

"Over the coming days, the company will prepare its bankruptcy filing with the goal of achieving maximum value in court," it added in a statement.

Besides Ms Contreras-Sweet's investor group, there had been nearly a dozen other bids, including from Qatari group beIN, Hollywood studio Lionsgate and another female-led investor group lined up behind audiovisual production company Killer Content.

Weinstein, whose films received more than 300 Oscar nominations and 81 statuettes, went into career meltdown in October with bombshell exposes in The New York Times and New Yorker alleging years of sexual misconduct.

More than 100 women have since accused him of sexual harassment, assault and rape going back 40 years, leading not only to his career annihilation but to a US reckoning over harassment and abuse that has toppled a litany of powerful men in various sectors.

Jennifer Lawrence, who at 27 is considered one of America's top actresses, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that when she found out about the allegations, she "wanted to kill him."

"The way he destroyed so many women's lives. I want to see him in jail," she told CBS television's "60 Minutes."

Lawrence worked with Weinstein and said he was "never inappropriate" with her, but now thinks the allegations against him are "criminal and deplorable."

Any move toward bankruptcy will cast further doubt on the fate of several finished movies, which have languished on the shelf since the scandal blew up, with no release dates announced.

They include historical drama "The Current War," starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison, "Mary Magdalene," a religious drama starring Rooney Mara, and "The War With Grandpa," a comedy starring Robert De Niro.

The company has also been attached to numerous projects at much earlier stages of production and now less likely to go ahead, the most high-profile of which was Quentin Tarantino's untitled Manson family project and "The Senator's Wife," which was to star Meryl Streep in a movie that Weinstein said would confront America's powerful gun lobby.

Weinstein was sacked as company chairman after the allegations first surfaced and subsequently resigned from the board of the company in October.

The twice-married father of five is being investigated by British and US police, but has not been charged with any crime. He denies having non-consensual sex and is reportedly in treatment for sex addiction.

AFP