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Oct 16, 2017

Weinstein Co enters talks over potential sale

Why Weinstein Co. swiftly firing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein sets a new precedent

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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 the departure of co-founder Harvey Weinstein.

The announcement of the deal talks comes only days after co-Chairman Bob Weinstein, Harvey's brother and the other co-founder, denied the firm was seeking to sell or shut down after firing Harvey Weinstein following accusations that he sexually harassed or assaulted a number of women over the past three decades.

Colony Capital, which has about US$20 billion in assets under management, will provide an immediate capital infusion into Weinstein Co and is in talks to buy all or a significant portion of its assets, the companies said in a statement.

Weinstein Co, launched in October 2005, produces and distributes films, scoring hits "Shakespeare in Love," "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.

His firm and the Qatar Investment Authority bought the Miramax studio, founded by the Weinstein brothers, in 2010 and sold the movie production and distribution company last year to BeIN Media Group.

Like Miramax, the value of Weinstein Co likely lies in its library of movie hits, which are in demand by traditional TV networks and online streaming services.

The companies made no mention in their statement of a possible deal value.

Last year, Harvey Weinstein told The Hollywood Reporter that the privately held company was worth US$700 million to US$800 million, including the film library, and that it had no debt.

There are no public filings on which to asses the likely value of the company or its debt load. Opus Bank (OPB.O) funded a US$400-million credit facility to Weinstein Co in August 2016, but it is unclear if the company tapped the facility.

Barrack, a real estate tycoon, is a friend of U.S. President Donald Trump and served as chairman of his inaugural committee.

The cash infusion comes after more of the Weinstein Co's partners have cut ties in recent days. Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) said on Friday it is exploring options for the stake it holds in the company. Goldman's stake is less than US$1 million.

Hachette Book Group, the U.S. publishing house of French group Lagardere (LGDDF.PK), terminated the Weinstein Books imprint on Thursday.

Colony's cash infusion will "stabilize 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.

A number of women have claimed that movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them over the past three decades. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled Weinstein on Saturday, a sharp smack for a Hollywood mogul known for powering a string of films to Oscar gold. The Weinsteins together have received 341 Oscar nominations and won 81 Academy Awards.

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 were last up 0.6 per cent on Monday.