Scandal-hit Weinstein Co. files for bankruptcy protection

Harvey Weinstein arrives at The Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Scandal-hit Weinstein Co. files for bankruptcy protection

NEW YORK: The Weinstein Co. filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday with a buyout offer in hand from a private equity firm, the latest twist in its efforts to survive the sexual misconduct scandal that brought down co-founder Harvey Weinstein, shook Hollywood and triggered a movement that spread out to convulse other industries.
The company also announced that it was releasing any victims of or witnesses to Weinstein’s alleged misconduct from non-disclosure agreements preventing them from speaking out. That step had long been sought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who filed lawsuit against the company last month on behalf of its employees.
“Since October, it has been reported that Harvey Weinstein used non-disclosure agreements as a secret weapon to silence his accusers. Effective immediately, those ‘agreements’ end,” the company said in a statement. “No one should be afraid to speak out or coerced to stay quiet.”
In a statement, Schneiderman praised the decision as “a watershed moment for efforts to address the corrosive effects of sexual misconduct in the workplace.”
The movie and TV studio becomes the first high-profile company to be forced into bankruptcy in the nationwide outcry over workplace sexual misconduct. Dozens of prominent men in entertainment, media, finance, politics and other realms have seen their careers derailed, but no other company has seen its very survival as tightly intertwined with the fate of one man as the Weinstein Co.
Some 80 women, including prominent actresses, have accused Harvey Weinstein of misconduct ranging from rape to harassment. Weinstein, who was fired as his company’s CEO in October, has denied any allegations of non-consensual sex.
The Weinstein Co. said it has entered into a “stalking horse” agreement with an affiliate of Dallas-based Lantern Capital Partners, meaning the equity firm has agreed to buy the company, subject to approval by the US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.
Lantern had been among a group of investors that had been in talks for months to buy the company outside of bankruptcy. That deal was complicated when Schneiderman filed his lawsuit, citing concerns that the sale would benefit executives accused of enabling Weinstein’s alleged misconduct and provide insufficient guarantees of compensation for his accusers. Talks to revive the sale finally fell apart two weeks ago when the group of buyers said they had discovered undisclosed liabilities.
The Weinstein Co. said it chose Lantern as a potential buyer because the firm was committed to keeping on the studio’s employees as a going concern.
“While we had hoped to reach a sale out of court, the Board is pleased to have a plan for maximizing the value of its assets, preserving as many jobs as possible and pursuing justice for any victims,” said Bob Weinstein, who co-founded the company with his brother Harvey in 2005 and remains chairman of the board of directors.
Lantern co-founders Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic said they were committed to “following through on our promise to reposition the business as a pre-eminent content provider, while cultivating a positive presence in the industry.”
Under bankruptcy protection, civil lawsuits filed by Weinstein’s accusers will be halted and no new legal claims can be brought against the company. Secured creditors would get priority for payment over the women suing the company.
Schneiderman’s lawsuit will not be halted by the bankruptcy filing because it was filed by a law enforcement agency. Schneiderman said his investigation would continue and that his office would engage with the Weinstein Co. and Lantern to ensure “that victims are compensated, employees are protected moving forward, and perpetrators and enablers of abuse are not unjustly enriched.”
Other bidders also could emerge during the bankruptcy process, particularly those interested in the company’s lucrative 277-film library, which includes award-winning films from big-name directors like Quentin Tarantino and horror releases from its Dimension label. Free of liabilities, the company’s assets could increase in value in a bankruptcy.
In more fallout over the scandal, New York’s governor directed the state attorney general to review a decision by the Manhattan district attorney’s office not to prosecute a 2015 case involving an Italian model who said Weinstein groped her.
The bankruptcy process will bring the company’s finances into public view, including the extent of its debt. The buyers who pulled out of the sale earlier this month said they discovered up to $64 million in undisclosed liabilities, including $27 million in residuals and profit participation. Those liabilities came on top of $225 million in debt, which the buyers had said they would be prepared to take on as part of a $500 million acquisition deal.
The Weinstein Co. already had been struggling financially before the scandal erupted in October with a news stories in The New York Times and The New Yorker. Harvey and Bob Weinstein started the company after leaving Miramax, the company they founded in 1979 and which became a powerhouse in ‘90s indie film with hits like “Pulp Fiction.” After finding success with Oscar winners “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech,” the Weinstein Co.’s output and relevance diminished in recent years. The company let go 50 employees in 2016 and continuously shuffled release dates while short of cash.
Last year, the studio sold distribution rights for the movie “Paddington 2” to Warner Bros. for more than $30 million.


Soviet-era motorcycle sidecars add to Cuba’s retro appeal

Updated 21 March 2019
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Soviet-era motorcycle sidecars add to Cuba’s retro appeal

  • Ranging from rusting relics to the pampered and the pristine, hundreds of old motorcycle sidecars rattle through the streets of Havana

HAVANA: Cuba’s love affair with 1950s-era American cars is still intact, but the communist-run island also has a lingering attachment to a stalwart of Soviet-era leftovers, the motorcycle sidecar.
Ranging from rusting relics to the pampered and the pristine, hundreds of old motorcycle sidecars rattle through the streets of Havana.
The retro appeal gets a lot of attention from tourists “but here it’s common, normal,” says Enrique Oropesa Valdez.
Valdez should know. The 59-year old makes a living as an instructor teaching people how to handle the sidecar in Havana’s traffic, where riders seem able to squeeze the machines through the narrowest of gaps.
And they’ve built up an intense loyalty among the mend-and-make do Cubans.
“They’re very practical,” according to Alejandro Prohenza Hernandez, a restaurateur who says his pampered red 30-year-old Jawa 350 is like a second child.
Cheaper and more practical than the gas-guzzling, shark-finned US behemoths, the bikes are used for anything from the family runabout to trucking goods and workers’ materials.
“A lot of foreigners really like to take photos of it,” says Hernandez. “I don’t know, I think they see it as something from another time.”
Cuba lags several decades behind the rest of the world due to a crippling US embargo, so the makers’ badges on the ubiquitous sidecars speak of a bygone world.
Names like Jawa from the former Czechoslovakia and MZ from the former East Germany, as well as antiquated Russian Urals, Dniepers and Jupiters.
Havana’s military acquired them from big brother Moscow at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s and 70s, for use by state factories and farms. Over the years, they gradually filtered down to the general public.
That’s how Jose Antonio Ceoane Nunez, 46, found his bright red Jupiter 3.
“When the Cuban government bought sidecars from the Russians in 1981, it was for state-owned companies,” he said.
Later, the companies “sold them on to the most deserving employees,” he said. His father, who worked for a state body, passed the bike on to him.
“Even if the sidecar gets old. I’ll never sell it because it’s what I use to move around. It’s my means of transport in Cuba, and there aren’t many other options,” said Nunez.
Valdez himself has a cherished green 1977 Ural.
“I like it a lot, firstly because it’s the means of transport for my family, and secondly because it’s a source of income.”
And it costs less than a car, still out of reach of many Cubans.
Settled on the island with his Cuban wife, 38-year-old Frenchman Philippe Ruiz didn’t realize at first how ubiquitous the motorcycle sidecar was.
“When I began to be interested, I suddenly realized that I was seeing 50 to 100 a day!”
Renovating a house at the time, he saw that many sidecars were being used to transport building equipment.
Through an advert on the Internet, he bought a blue 1979 Ural a few months ago for 6,500 euros.
“It’s a year older than me and in worse shape,” he said. “Soon he had to strip the bike down and “start repairing everything.”
With few spare parts available in Cuba, “people have to bring them in from abroad,” which slows down repairs.
But he has no regrets. An experienced motorcyclist, he’s discovered a whole new side to his passion by riding the Russian machine.
“It’s very funny, it’s a big change from the bike because we cannot turn the same way, we can’t lean, so you have to relearn everything but it’s nice.”
“It’s especially nice with the family because you can put a child in the sidecar, my wife behind, and suitcases,” he said.
In future he hopes to take advantage of the interest in the old bikes to rent it out.
“I think it will be a bit of a change from all the convertibles here.”