I am sickened and dismayed that Disney CEO Robert Iger was willing to sell Miramax Films to an investor group led by 69-year-old L.A. construction magnate Ron Tutor and Tom Barrack and Colony Capital LLC. (Disney's news release omits Morgan Creek CEO Jim Robinson, who was interested in joining the combine).
"The Walt Disney Company announced today the sale of Miramax Films to Filmyard Holdings LLC for over $660 million subject to certain adjustments. Partners in Filmyard include Los Angeles businessmen Ron Tutor, Tom Barrack, Colony Capital LLC and other individuals. The transaction is subject to certain regulatory approvals and is expected to close between September 10, 2010 and the end of the calendar year."
Disney CEO Robert Iger stated:
"Although we are very proud of Miramax's many accomplishments, our current strategy for Walt Disney Studios is to focus on the development of great motion pictures under the Disney, Pixar and Marvel brands. We are delighted that we have found a home for the Miramax brand and Miramax's very highly regarded motion picture library."
Tutor, despite any claims to the contrary, is inextricably linked with beleaguered financeer David Bergstein, an irresponsible fly-by-night operator who could wind up in jail. Just last week a federal bankruptcy court judge ordered Tutor to be deposed over their ongoing business relationship. Just read Alex Ben Block's interview with Tutor and it's clear that he is still in league with Bergstein:
"There's something very nice about (Bergstein) when you meet him, he's very charming," Tutor said. "But as I've told him a number of times, he needs to look inward. All the sick things he did, gambling money he didn't have, trying to grow a business he didn't know and borrowing the way he did, and the madness, to sum it up, of what took place, he's got to learn from it because it virtually destroyed him. If you don't learn from your mistakes, you just continue to make them."
For Tutor, buying Miramax is a money move to exploit a library of 700 titles including Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and the Oscar-winning Pulp Fiction, No Country for Old Men, Chicago, Shakespeare in Love and The English Patient. If Disney had been willing to sell the company for less than Tutor's $660 million to Ron Burkle and the Weinsteins, they would have kept the company, named after their parents, alive and running, with respect for the films they nurtured over the years. Disney had been entertaining bids since January; the Gores brothers were trying to combine Overture and Miramax, but that was also not to be.
The other disadvantage of this deal is the ongoing relationship with the Weinsteins, points out the NYT:
As much as $150 million of the Miramax unit’s value, according to one person who was briefed on the transaction but asked for anonymity because the talks were private, remains tied to film franchises — including the “Spy Kids” and “Scary Movie” series — in which the Weinstein brothers have rights.
It remained unclear how Mr. Tutor’s group planned to deal with the Weinstein presence, given the brothers’ clear chagrin at not having prevailed in the bidding.
Now Miramax is effectively dead and buried and that's a sad and unnecessary thing. I know that Disney had a sales figure in mind, but I regret that the studio felt so little responsibility for the fate of its specialized label.
The studio will release the remainder of the Miramax slate, including Julie Taymor's The Tempest, which closes the Venice Film Festival, the Jennifer Aniston relationship comedy The Switch, John Madden's spy thriller The Debt, starring Helen Mirren, and producer Guillermo Del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, which presented well-received footage at the recent Comic-Con.