Can the company Harvey Weinstein founded survive his scandal?
Posted October 12, 2017 3:19 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Can the Weinstein Co. survive in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal? Right now it's an open question, even among the 200-odd staffers at the company.
The two men now running the firm, Weinstein's brother Bob and the company's president David Glasser, could be the next out the door, a company official and two Hollywood executives told CNN.
The two Weinstein Co. executives are coming under severe scrutiny because some of the allegations of misconduct by Harvey Weinstein date back decades, which raises the question: Why didn't people in a position to know do more?
Bob Weinstein is the company's co-founder and Glasser is the chief operations officer.
Other Weinstein Co. executives and people close to the company are deeply concerned about the likelihood of lawsuits against the company.
"This is only going to get worse," a studio chief told CNN.
The studio chiefs and executives who spoke for this story are in regular contact with Weinstein Co. about film and television projects. Some of the company's partners, like Amazon, are rethinking their deals for future shows and films.
The company is "under siege," a senior staffer said.
On Thursday, a Weinstein-branded book imprint at Hachette was disbanded, effecting about ten books a year. The books will still be published by Hachette without the Weinstein name.
Late Thursday, there was a fresh sign of the creative community withdrawing from Weinstein Co. Quiara Hudes, the playwright who is adapting "In The Heights" as a movie, expressed regret that the project is set up at Weinstein. She said in a statement, "I hope Weinstein Company has enough grace, in the wake of these allegations, to respect my stand as a woman, and to allow us to extricate In The Heights from them."
Hudes said the play "deserves a fresh start in a studio where I'll feel safe (as will my actors and collaborators)."
As for TV shows and movies, an executive at a network said their company is "still deciding" how it will handle ongoing projects with Weinstein Co. "There is no studio without Harvey," the executive said. "The creative vision is gone."
But the company already has several films in the pipeline, including "The Current War," coming out this fall, and "Paddington 2," in January.
An expected name change is intended to remove the Weinstein affiliation. But lawsuits and lingering questions about complicity could haunt the company for years.
Top Hollywood executives are talking amongst themselves about the possibility of a new CEO being hired from the outside, or even a sale of the wounded company.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday "that the company has been grappling with Mr. Weinstein's behavior for at least two years."
Bob Weinstein and Glasser did not respond to requests for comment. The board has generally denied knowing about Weinstein's "extreme sexual misconduct," but has not responded to specific questions.
Finger-pointing is now well underway. One of Weinstein's attorneys, David Boies, went on the record with The Times and said the company's board of directors knew in 2015 about three or four of Weinstein's settlement payments. At the time, Weinstein's employment contract was being renegotiated.
Half of the board of directors quit a week ago after The Times published its first story describing a pattern of alleged harassment. The four remaining board members -- Bob Weinstein, Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov and Richard Koenigsberg -- fired Weinstein on Sunday night as they braced for an even more damning article from The New Yorker.
Another litigator, Patty Glaser, is representing Weinstein in what may become a messy battle with Weinstein Co. over his termination and his ownership stake in the studio.
The New Yorker investigation came out on Tuesday. The reporter, Ronan Farrow, said he interviewed 16 former and current Weinstein Co. staffers who either witnessed or knew about Weinstein's improper behavior.
Some of them described meetings between Weinstein and aspiring actresses that were "little more than thin cover for predatory behavior," Farrow said on CNN's "New Day."
The staffers "talked about a profound feeling of guilt," Farrow said.
Some Weinstein Co. staffers have described different levels of knowledge -- complicating the widely-held view that "everybody knew."
Many people at the company and in Hollywood knew that he was an aggressive person prone to anger, knew that he pursued young women, knew that some of his behavior could have crossed some lines -- but did not necessarily know that what he did could have been illegal.
That's a generous assessment. A more cynical view is that some staffers aided Weinstein's harassment of women and turned a blind eye to abuses.
After the Times story came out, before The New Yorker story came out, the Weinstein Co. board retained attorney John Kiernan of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP to conduct an investigation.
"We believe it is important to learn the full truth regarding the article's very serious accusations, in the interests of the Company, its shareholders and its employees," the board said.
That was almost a week ago. A company spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment about the status of the investigation.
The review will likely look at action or inaction by Weinstein's human resources department.
"One of the common complaints was that everything told to the H.R. department would be immediately funneled back to Mr. Weinstein," Farrow said on CNN. "Now, that is not uncommon in small companies, but they felt that, broadly speaking, there was a culture of fear and a culture of retaliation in this company."
The law firm's investigation may also examine how Weinstein's staffers facilitated his meetings with women who now accuse him of wrongdoing.
A former assistant of Weinstein's described this in a confidential interview with CNN on Thursday.
"Worst kept secret in Hollywood?" the person said, using a term that has echoed across television for the past week. "Amongst us day-to-day employees, we knew that Harvey was a philandering creep. We knew that Harvey flew around the world at the whim of his sexual urges or whatever the hell it was. But we all believed he was just cheating on his wife -- which is horrible in its own right, but at no point did we ever think or imagine that he was raping people. We had no idea what was going on behind those closed doors."
The New Yorker article included three allegations of rape, which Weinstein has denied.
The former assistant insisted on anonymity because of a past nondisclosure agreement and a present fear of being sued by Weinstein.