Five months—that’s how long it took for the Weinstein Company to fall apart after scores of women accused co-founder and co-chairman Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment.
On Monday evening (March 19), the movie studio filed for bankruptcy in Delaware, effectively winding down the studio’s 13-year run under the Weinstein brothers. It has also entered a “stalking horse” agreement to a purchase of its assets by an affiliate of Lantern Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in Dallas. One unnamed source told Variety the deal would fall in the range of $300 to $320 million, while another put it at almost $450 million. Other bidders could still emerge.
In a press release announcing the move shared by Variety, the Weinstein Company added that it will release all current staff from non-disclosure agreements they were required to sign upon first joining as employees. This could pave the way for many more allegations to surface.
“No one should be afraid to speak out or coerced to stay quiet,” the release stated. “The Company thanks the courageous individuals who have already come forward. Your voices have inspired a movement for change across the country and around the world.”
Pressure to lift the non-disclosure agreements comes in part from a lawsuit filed in February (pdf) by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman alleging that the Weinstein Company facilitated unlawful sexual conduct from Harvey Weinstein. Schneiderman, in a statement, described the decision to release employees from the agreements as a “watershed moment for efforts to address the corrosive effects of sexual harassment in the workplace.”
In its own press release, Lantern added that it remains committed to “maintaining the company’s assets and employees as a going concern.”
The bankruptcy filing comes after the New York Times (paywall) and the New Yorker published investigative reports last October revealing that Harvey Weinstein had repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward employees and Hollywood actresses. Weinstein was soon fired by the company’s board.
The story of a Hollywood executive relying on a position of power to go unpunished for sexual harassment helped spark the #MeToo movement worldwide, wherein women (and some men), aided by social media and journalists, brought forth similar allegations against men in a wide range of industries. While the movement has brought down many public figures, to date the Weinstein bankruptcy marks the rare instance where allegations of sexual harassment have led to the downfall of an entire company.