After months of publicnegotiations and anguish, Disney and Miramax topbrass announced yesterday  that Harvey and Bob Weinstein will leave theDisney fold when their contracts expire on Sept 30 to set up an integrated media company, tentatively titled TheWeinstein Company.
In a conference call with reporters that revealed littleby way of new developments on the outcome of the highly publicised talks, itwas declared that Disney will keep Miramax as a wholly owned company, as wellas the Miramax name - always one of the most contentious negotiation pointssince it incorporates the names of the brothers' parents Miriam and Max - andthe 550-plus-title Miramax library.
The Weinsteinstake with them the Dimension Films name as part of their broad vision for anexpanded portfolio of interests that includes film production and distribution,publishing, and a technology division that Harvey Weinstein promised wouldrival the cutting-edge spirit embodied in Miramax's film operations. Anannouncement on the future of Miramax Books will follow in due course.
The new venturewill allow the brothers to combine their creative sensibilities withentrepreneurial savvy, and will benefit from the insights of an informaladvisory group that includes in its gaggle of hedge fund managers and businessleaders none other than Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
Until theirautumn departure, the Weinsteins will remain Miramax co-chairmen and work onthe extant slate of 15-20 unreleased Miramax/Dimension pictures, which includesProof, Mindhunters, The Brothers Grimm, The Underclassman, and The Great Raid.
The Weinsteinswill work with the new Miramax management, to be announced in July, until Sept30. During this time the brothers will also set about developing an initialslate of titles that will be shared with Disney and wholly owned by the newventure, including pictures by Weinstein favourites Quentin Tarantino, RobertRodriguez, Anthony Minghella, and Kevin Smith. See separate story for a list ofthe new company's opening slate.
Internationalreleasing plans had not been finalised at time of writing. While it seemsalmost certain that Buena Vista International (BVI) will handle shared titleson the Weinstein Company slate like Scary Movie 4 and Mrs Henderson Presents (in Weinstein-owned territories), it remained unclear whether BVI or a newWeinstein Company sales division would handle the new venture's wholly ownedtitles.
It is understood Miramax staff will either stay with theunit at Disney or go with the Weinsteins, who, now that the deal has beenannounced, can make a play for favoured employees. The parties did not commenton the subject during the conference call.
The WeinsteinCompany will work with Disney on future projects and will acquire and producenew titles for itself. There should be no shortage of backers lining up to workwith the new venture. Harvey told reporters in a conference call yesterday thatthe reaction to the news in New York and other financial hubs had been one of"incredible excitement", adding, "The amount of money that will be raised willbe significant."
Aside from theusual corporate platitudes about talent, respect and experience that flewbetween Harvey and Disney chairman Dick Cook, proceedings took a slightlyedgier turn when the parties were asked why it had all come to this.
Cook madeeuphemistic noises about growing production costs at Miramax, while Harveypointed to three missed opportunities that had riled him, namely Disney'srefusal to let Miramax set up a channel on Cablevision, produce the Lord OfThe Rings franchise, andbuy the Artisan library.
Harvey praisedCook and colleagues at Disney for the amicable negotiations, adding thatincoming Disney chief executive Robert Iger had been "incredibly helpful" inmoving things forward.
Weinstein gamelyreserved a few words for Michael Eisner, the current chief executive officerwith whom he has endured a tempestuous relationship, telling reporters: "Hegave us the freedom not only to make movies we love but ones that were a greatasset to Disney and its shareholders."
As for Disneykeeping the Miramax name, Weinstein said: "That's the tough part of all this.My mum is 79 years old and my dad passed away when we were younger and nevergot to see the name in his lifetime."
The informal advisoryboard includes Paul Newman, Robert Redford, New Regency Productions founderArnon Milchan, Quadrangle Group managing principal Steve Rattner, Cablevisionchief executive officer Jim Dolan, Ziff Brothers Investments chairman DirkZiff, Tudor Investment Corp chairman and chief executive officer Paul TudorJones, J Crew chairman and chief executive officer Millard "Mickey" Drexler,Quinta Communications' Tarak Ben Ammar, and TriArc Companies chairman and chiefexecutive officer Nelson Peltz.
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