Weinstein Co. Declares a Winner in Its Bankruptcy Sale

Posted May 1, 2018 11:37 p.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES — The Weinstein Co. on Tuesday named a Dallas private equity firm as the winning bidder in its bankruptcy sale, spurning an offer by Broadway producer Howard Kagan.

The victor — for now, at least, as a bankruptcy judge still has to sign off and the decision could be challenged by creditors — is Lantern Capital Partners. It entered the sale as the studio’s prearranged bidder, or “stalking horse,” which set a price floor. Lantern offered $310 million plus the assumption of about $115 million in debt.

“Lantern’s bid clearly achieves the highest and best value,” Ivona Smith, a member of the Weinstein Co.'s board, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Lantern to close the transaction.”

Smith, a consultant at Drivetrain Advisors, which assists distressed companies, only recently joined the studio’s board, which also includes the co-founder Bob Weinstein.

Lantern has no Hollywood experience. Its portfolio includes underperforming auto dealerships and a company that recycles zinc. Lantern became involved with the Weinstein Co. this year, when it agreed to help finance an attempt to help the troubled studio avert bankruptcy. That effort, led in part by the billionaire Ron Burkle, fell apart in March.

The Weinstein Co. imploded in October after dozens of women publicly accused its former chief executive, Harvey Weinstein, of sexual misconduct stretching back decades. It announced on March 19 that it would file for bankruptcy. The movie and television studio, once known for Oscar-winning films like “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist,” had less than $500,000 in cash. It was facing a mountain of debt and a swelling number of lawsuits, including one by New York’s attorney general.

Lawyers for the studio had bragged that its assets — a library of old films, a small television production business and a handful of unreleased new films — had drawn interest from as many as 60 potential bidders. But in the end there appeared to be only Lantern, with its bid to keep the studio whole; Sonar Entertainment, with a nibble on the television division; and Inclusion Media, led by Kagan, a former partner at the hedge fund Harbinger Capital who has reinvented himself as a Tony Award-winning producer of Broadway shows like “Pippin.”

Inclusion’s $315 million proposal, which the Weinstein Co. said was submitted after the deadline and did not meet other requirements for a qualified bid, was notable for including a settlement fund for Weinstein’s victims of at least $25 million.

On Tuesday, five of the named plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits pending against Weinstein said in a news release that they “strongly opposed” the Lantern purchase, which did not include a specific fund for victims, and that they supported Kagan’s effort.

“We’re here to show them the assault survivors will not go away quietly,” a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Elizabeth Fegan, said in the release.

In its statement on Tuesday, the Weinstein Co. acknowledged that Inclusion “did claim to offer certain attractive aspects for victims,” but said it concluded that Inclusion’s interest was not a “bona fide offer.” The company added, “In furtherance of its fiduciary duty, the board selected the bid that offered, with certainty, the most overall value.”