Weinstein Company files for bankruptcy in 'new beginning'

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New York (AFP) - Harvey Weinstein's former production company announced late Monday it had filed for bankruptcy, less than six months after the Hollywood mogul was beset by avalanching sexual assault allegations.

The studio also said it was immediately releasing accusers from non-disclosure agreements which Weinstein had used to silence them, allowing women to speak up without fear of retaliation.

"Even as the company heads into bankruptcy, the company remains committed to doing whatever it can to maximize value for its creditors and... continue its pursuit of justice for any victims," it said.

The company added that it "cannot undo the damage Harvey Weinstein caused, but hopes that today's events will mark a new beginning."

It announced a "stalking-horse" agreement -- an initial bid on a bankrupt company's assets from an interested buyer -- with the affiliate of a Texas-based private equity firm.

Lantern Capital Partners will purchase assets -- subject to conditions and approval from a bankruptcy court in Delaware, it said.

Weinstein's brother and company chairman Robert said the board was "pleased to have a plan for maximizing the value of its assets, preserving as many jobs as possible and pursuing justice for any victims."

Lantern co-founders Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic said they intended "to reposition the business as a pre-eminent content provider, while cultivating a positive presence in the industry."

Monday's announcement came two weeks after an investor group led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, a former Obama administration official, abandoned a reported $500 million deal to buy assets of the studio.

As that deal collapsed, The Weinstein Company's board of directors said they would pursue "an orderly bankruptcy process" while working to see if there were other viable options.

The New York-headquartered film studio had teetered on the brink of bankruptcy since Weinstein's career went down in flames last October.

In February, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued The Weinstein Company, fearing that imminent sale could leave victims of the mogul's alleged sexual misconduct without adequate redress.

- No charges laid -

On Monday Schneiderman welcomed the agreement to release victims and witnesses from non-disclosure agreements as "a watershed moment for efforts to address the corrosive effects of sexual misconduct in the workplace."

"My office will continue to fight for victims' best interests throughout the bankruptcy proceedings," he added. "We welcome the parties' efforts to preserve jobs and pursue justice for victims."

The fate of several finished movies, which have languished on the shelf since Weinstein's career imploded, with no release dates announced, is unclear.

They include historical drama "The Current War," starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison, "Mary Magdalene," a religious drama starring Rooney Mara, and "The War With Grandpa," a comedy starring Robert De Niro.

Weinstein, 66, was sacked as chairman in October after the first sexual abuse allegations emerged.

More than 100 women have since accused him of impropriety going back 40 years and ranging from sexual harassment to assault and rape.

His case triggered a US reckoning over harassment and abuse that has toppled a litany of powerful men in various sectors.

Weinstein, a twice-married father of five, is being investigated by British and US police, but has not been charged with any crime. He denies having non-consensual sex and is reportedly in treatment for sex addiction.

He had steered numerous films to Academy Awards glory including "The Artist," "The King's Speech" and "The Iron Lady."

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