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Victims Object To Private Equity Firm Buying Weinstein Company


Tomorrow a bankruptcy judge considers the fate of The Weinstein Company. A private equity firm offered to buy that company, and the company accepted. Victims of Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual assault and harassment have not agreed. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports they favor a different bid.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Here's the situation - after Harvey Weinstein and his company were accused of sexual misconduct last fall, they couldn't keep the company afloat. So they tried to sell it. When that didn't work, they filed for bankruptcy. Melissa Jacoby is a bankruptcy expert and law professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She says there are a lot of contradictions here.

MELISSA JACOBY: On the one hand, the company started the bankruptcy by telling the court just how complex the company is and the situation is. And on the other hand, it's going full speed ahead trying to wrap this process up in such a short period of time.

BLAIR: Last week The Weinstein Company sent out a statement declaring Lantern Capital as the winning bidder.

JACOBY: They do not get to decide on their own. They can seek court approval for their decision that Lantern is the winning bidder, but there's a lot that can happen that would make the court question whether Lantern should be indeed the buyer of this company.

BLAIR: Lantern Capital is a Texas investment firm that doesn't have any entertainment experience, but it does restructure businesses, mostly in real estate and manufacturing. The firm was part of a failed bid to buy The Weinstein Company before it filed for bankruptcy. Now Lantern is offering to pay a reported $310 million for the company's assets. That includes a library of Oscar-winning movies, the TV show "Project Runway" and production deals.

Executives from Lantern and The Weinstein Company declined to comment for this story. In an email to NPR, a representative from Lantern said the matter is in the hands of the court.

What Lantern's bid does not include is compensation for victims of Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual misconduct, says Cris Armenta, one of the attorneys representing six women in a class-action suit.

CRIS ARMENTA: No one from Lantern has ever reached out to the victims, the survivors, and we found that silence mystifying.

BLAIR: She and the plaintiffs do support a new bid that emerged last week by Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Howard Kagan. Before producing theater, he was a broker on Wall Street. He says his bid is equal to Lantern's bid, but includes $30 million for a victims' fund. Kagan says he plans to create a new company that would promote diversity across the board.

HOWARD KAGAN: From the creation of the management team, to the type of content that it will produce, to the way that it reinvents the culture for the existing employees, the idea is to create something beautiful and profitable out of what was a very ugly situation.

SARAH ANN MASSE: I would love to see a company like that win the bid.

BLAIR: Sarah Ann Masse is an actor, writer and comedian who says she was assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. She's one of the plaintiffs in the class-action suit.

MASSE: There needs to be a victims' fund, and we need to stop being erased from this narrative.

BLAIR: Law professor Melissa Jacoby says a sale like this needs to be deliberate.

JACOBY: Getting it right the first time is really important because there isn't another bite at the apple when it comes to doing these sales in bankruptcy court.

BLAIR: Jacoby says reversing a bankruptcy judge's decision on appeal is almost impossible.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF BONOBO SONG, "OUTLIER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.