Call it “poetic justice,” call it “irony,” but the Weinstein Company was just saved from declaring bankruptcy at the 11th hour by a female-majority investment group. Take that, male-dominated Hollywood. It doesn’t eradicate the problem, but it’s a good start.
Since October of last year when more than 60 women went public with sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein, the entire Western world has been undergoing a sexual harassment reckoning. Weinstein was ousted from his own company shortly thereafter and the Weinstein Company has been left in a precarious position both culturally and financially since then. How does a business rehabilitate its image after being the very thing that gave Weinstein the power to victimize so many women?
You let the women take over.
Businesswoman Maria Contreras-Sweet is leading a majority-female group of investors in a $500 million deal that grants them the rights to all of the Weinstein Company’s assets including its 277-picture film library. Contreras-Sweets and business partner Ron Burkle have been in negotiations with the company since last fall and the deal looked like it was about to fall through until it was saved at the last minute Thursday.
“Our team is pleased to announce that we have taken an important step and have reached an agreement to purchase assets from The Weinstein Company in order to launch a new company, with a new board and a new vision that embodies the principles that we have stood by since we began this process last fall,” Contreras-Sweet said in a statement.
“Those principles have never wavered and have always been to build a movie studio led by a board of directors made up of a majority of independent women, save about 150 jobs, protect the small businesses who are owed money and create a victims’ compensation fund that would supplement existing insurance coverage for those who have been harmed.”
So yeah, it looks like a group of women just swooped in and saved the day. And they’re also going to support victims of Weinstein’s abuse. In a letter to the company around the beginning of negotiations, Contreras-Sweet wrote, “I will be chairwoman of a majority female board of directors. Women will be significant investors in the new company and control its voting stock.”
So who is the woman who is front and center in righting this horrible wrong? Maria Contreras-Sweet was born in Mexico and emigrated to Los Angeles where she founded a bank and a marketing research consulting firm and has worked throughout her career on getting more women into business. She also served as the Administrator for the American Small Business Administration under Barack Obama at his nomination.
“As a long-time business leader and advocate for gender and racial equality, I have been profoundly affected by the recent revelations surrounding [the Weinstein] company’s leadership,” Contreras-Sweet wrote in her fall letter, “You must care, as I do, about the women who have suffered the indignities inflicted upon them. I feel compelled to take action to provide them some remedy for what they endured.”
We would say the Weinstein Company is in much better hands.