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By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) - A U.S. bankruptcy judge approved on Friday procedures for auctioning the film studio co-founded by Harvey Weinstein, who was fired by the company last year in the wake of allegations of sexual assault.
The Weinstein Co filed for bankruptcy last month with an initial or so-called stalking horse bid from an affiliate of private equity firm Lantern Capital Partners, estimated to be worth around $310 million.
Interested buyers now have until April 30 to submit a higher bid. If multiple bids qualify, an auction will be held at the office of law firm Richards, Layton & Finger in Wilmington, Delaware, on May 4.
More than 70 women have accused Harvey Weinstein, who was one of Hollywood's most influential men, of sexual misconduct, including rape and assault. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.
When the allegations against Harvey Weinstein became public in October, the company's board fired him, and Hollywood heavyweights distanced themselves from the studio.
Bankruptcy will allow Weinstein Co assets to be sold stripped of liabilities. Movie producer Killer Content Inc said in January it might make a bid if the company was put into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Money raised from the sale would be used to repay Weinstein Co creditors, including those who have sued the company for its role in Harvey Weinstein's alleged abuse.
Co-founded with Bob Weinstein, Harvey's brother, the company produced and distributed critically acclaimed hits including "The King's Speech" and "Silver Linings Playbook," as well as TV's fashion reality competition "Project Runway."
A lawyer for the company told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath in Wilmington, Delaware on Friday that 16 potential bidders had signed non-disclosure agreements, giving them access to confidential information about the company.
A deal led by former Obama administration official Maria Contreras-Sweet collapsed in March after her group said previously undisclosed liabilities came to light.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp <LGFa.N> and Qatar-owned film company Miramax, also co-founded by the Weinstein brothers, had made offers for some assets.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Bill Rigby)