Waiting for Weinsteins

It’s kind of a cliché, bolstered by stereotypes of everyone driving around in Range Rovers and sitting in cafes and surfing and getting spa treatments. But the idea that it takes forever to get anything done in Hollywood is really getting out of hand these days. The three blockbuster-deal stories of the spring of 2010 are now turning into summer snoozers: MGM, Lionsgate and now Miramax.

All three are very different. MGM is essentially a burst-bubble saga, not too different from what is playing out across the country in various industries and in real estate especially. Every deadline to restructure has turned out to be a false one, and even the next James Bond installment is in limbo because of the mess.

Then there is Lionsgate and its long-running tangle with Carl Icahn, who believes the company’s stock has been undervalued because it is poorly run and that he—perhaps with his son Brett involved—can turn things round. Icahn has been offering a relatively lowball price of $7 a share to acquire Lionsgate. But the deadline on his bid was recently extended because it wasn’t gaining much traction with investors. Now both sides are talking about some kind of settlement—maybe Icahn gets some seats on the board—because otherwise he just stays there happily attacking and provoking until something happens.

To the casual follower, the Miramax story is downright curious. For weeks now, the Weinstein Co. has been on the verge of reuniting its eponymous co-chiefs, brothers Harvey and Bob, with Miramax, the company they built and sold to Walt Disney. As you’ve no doubt heard before, over a quarter-century they built Miramax into a hit machine, until they left the company several years ago and went on their own.

The new company has not replicated the brothers’ past success, and as Hollyworld has noted before, the Weinstein spin machine has been putting out word for months now that some new capital infusion is coming. Meanwhile, Disney, wanting to focus on big franchise films, essentially shuttered Miramax as a producer of new movies and put it on the block. No one knows the Miramax library (some 700 movies in all) better than Harvey and Bob, and it would be a great coup for them to be reunited with the company named after their parents, Mira and Max. Financier Ron Burkle was to provide the bulk of an estimated $625 million purchase price for the deal, and it was to have been announced at Cannes amid, one imagines, a blaze of popping champagne bottles. But Cannes is over, and on May 21 several reports declared that the deal was dead over “structural issues.” In response, the Weinstein Co. and Burkle put out a release saying that they are still working toward completing the deal. Disney has said nothing.

While this might be seen as brinkmanship on Disney’s part, the more likely scenario here is simply that there are too many cooks in the kitchen now, and Harvey Weinstein has not had the autonomy to close the deal. One person with knowledge of the process told me that the price was agreed upon and the financing in place. But every time they came close to signing a contract, the Weinstein Co. side would come back with a few more deal points. (One can imagine an unhappy investor or three in the Weinstein Co. wondering how exactly the Miramax catalog is going to help it out of its pickle.)

So here’s hoping that the Weinsteins can finally close this deal: It makes for the beginnings of an interesting new comeback tale—though it’s a bit of a chimera, as the brothers would essentially be running Miramax on behalf of Burkle, rather than owning it themselves. Still, it would be exciting to watch and, frankly, it’s getting boring here waiting for things to happen.



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