April 30 (Reuters) - Private equity firm Lantern Capital is nearing a deal to acquire the Weinstein Company, the TV and film studio whose former chairman Harvey Weinstein faces sexual assault claims, with a $310 million offer, people familiar with the matter said.
The Weinstein Company filed for bankruptcy in March with the offer from Lantern Capital in hand as a so-called stalking horse bidder. It had hoped to get better offers from other suitors, but no higher bid emerged by a deadline set in a bankruptcy auction for Monday, the sources said.
The sources asked not to be identified ahead of an official announcement. The Weinstein Company declined to comment, while Lantern did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hollywood trade publication Deadline Hollywood first reported earlier on Monday that Lantern was the winning bidder for the Weinstein Company.
The deal, which is subject to approval by a U.S. bankruptcy judge, would be the culmination of efforts by the Weinstein Company over several months to find a buyer. When the allegations against Harvey Weinstein became public in October, the company’s board fired him, and Hollywood heavyweights distanced themselves from the studio. Combined with lawsuits filed by Harvey Weinstein’s victims, this made the company an unappealing acquisition target.
An offer for the studio from a group of investors led by former Obama administration official Maria Contreras-Sweet failed to produce a deal earlier this year, after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a civil lawsuit against the company and demanded more compensation for Harvey Weinstein’s victims.
Contreras-Sweet’s offer included an $80 million to $90 million compensation fund that would supplement any insurance payouts victims would receive.
Harvey Weinstein, once one of Hollywood’s most influential men, has been accused of sexual misconduct including rape by more than 70 women. He has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone. It has been unclear how his alleged victims would be treated in a potential bankruptcy filing.
Co-founded with Bob Weinstein, Harvey’s brother, the Weinstein Company produced and distributed critically acclaimed hits including “The King’s Speech” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” as well as TV’s fashion reality competition “Project Runway.”
With its bankruptcy filing, the Weinstein Company said it released anyone “who suffered or witnessed any form of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein” from nondisclosure agreements, contracts that prevented victims from speaking out.
As part of the deal, Lantern will acquire Weinstein’s prized asset, its library of 277 feature films that have generated over $2 billion in aggregate box office receipts worldwide.
Based in Dallas, Texas, Lantern is a buyout firm founded by Andy Mitchell, the former head of Ally Financial’s global special assets group. (Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York)