Shortly after Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a sexual predator in October 2017, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched a civil rights investigation into The Weinstein Company. Four months later — with the goal of publicly identifying Weinstein’s enablers and ensuring that his survivors would be compensated — the AG’s office filed a lawsuit that offered a blistering assessment of Weinstein’s inner circle, singling out Harvey’s brother, Bob Weinstein, TWC management, and the TWC board for “failing to investigate or stop [Harvey Weinstein’s abuse].”
Still, in the wake of The Weinstein Company’s collapse, many of Weinstein’s victims feel cheated out of proper remuneration, while several of his alleged enablers have walked away from the rubble virtually unscathed. And, thanks to shady deals that allowed some TWC insiders to quietly pocket projects from the company’s 250-title library as it was headed for bankruptcy, those insiders may wield more power and reap more profit in Hollywood today than they did before Harvey’s downfall.
Former Weinstein Company COO David Glasser, for example, is an executive producer of Yellowstone, the most watched show on linear cable, which is well on its way to spawning a billion-dollar franchise thanks to numerous spin-offs. And, in a plot twist that few have noticed, the bulk of TWC’s assets — including the lucrative Scream franchise — passed through or landed in the hands of former TWC board member Tarak Ben Ammar, through a series of deals and transactions that the press largely ignored. Rolling Stone has learned that Ben Ammar currently enjoys a sizable ownership stake in Spyglass Media Group, a company launched in March 2019 by former MGM CEO Gary Barber and Lantern Entertainment — the outfit that ultimately prevailed in acquiring TWC’s library for $289 million. (Ben Ammar even demanded $4.8 million in finder fees dating back to 2011 for projects he worked on while a TWC board member, which he said was promised verbally by Harvey Weinstein, according to emails that Rolling Stone has reviewed. A senior TWC officer pushed back on paying him but wrote to another executive that Ben Ammar had persisted and “got it from Lantern,” a claim Ben Ammar denies.) A press release at the time of the Spyglass launch noted that “strategic investors include Eagle Pictures,” but never mentioned that Eagle is a shell company for Ben Ammar’s Paris-based Quinta Communications.
Though Spyglass turned around and sold the bulk of those holdings to Lionsgate for an undisclosed sum — likely much higher than what it had paid — it held onto about a dozen titles, including Scream, Short Circuit, Spy Kids, and Project Runway. When the Scream reboot opened last January in the No. 1 spot at the box office, en route to a $140 million worldwide haul, Ben Ammar shared in the proceeds. Not only that, last year, Bob Weinstein told a bankruptcy court that he is owed $2.3 million in profits generated by the movie Scream 4. That matter remains unresolved. Bob Weinstein did not respond to a request for comment.
“I am not a bad guy,” Ben Ammar tells Rolling Stone. “Despite losing all of my company’s initial investment into TWC and having substantial unpaid debt owed by TWC to my companies, I stayed on as a TWC board representative to help the company consummate the sale of substantially all of its assets.”
“The fact that abusers, and those complicit in that abuse, are still working and thriving in this industry, while the survivors of that abuse struggle to get work, is completely backwards,” says Weinstein survivor Sarah Ann Masse, who was part of a class-action suit against The Weinstein Company that settled in January 2021 for a relatively paltry $17 million. The deal was widely criticized given that the lawyers involved received more money (around $30 million in fees) than the victims, and no single Weinstein accuser received more than $500,000, according to sources. “[The Weinstein case] is just one of many examples of folks profiting off of harm, facilitating abuse, and then gleefully continuing on with their business and creative endeavors,” Masse says, “while survivors are ignored, pushed out, and left to struggle with the long-term impacts of their abuse.”
Masse is not the only one outraged by the fallout of the Weinstein scandal. The fact that, four years after Harvey’s reckoning, many of the men who shielded or failed to stop him are still getting rich in the film and television business, sometimes off of the very projects that had been part of the TWC library before it landed in bankruptcy court, has prompted a number of the mogul’s victims to speak out about what they see as a miscarriage of justice. Rolling Stone has talked with a dozen of the women harmed by Weinstein’s misconduct and reviewed previously undisclosed emails surrounding the company’s dismantling. The picture that emerges is one of a messy bankruptcy proceeding and an industry eager to continue working with people who propped up a tormentor.
Says Weinstein survivor Louisette Geiss, the lead plaintiff in the class-action suit, “There’s a reason why the survivors got so little. Not only were we harassed and raped and lost jobs, but then we were abused and raped on the final deal.”
As Attorney General Schneiderman was carrying out his investigation in the fall of 2017, a heated battle for TWC assets was in full swing behind the scenes, with Bob Weinstein and other TWC insiders, including Ben Ammar and David Glasser, doing what they could to extract as many titles as possible from the scrap heap to ensure a secure post-Weinstein future for themselves.
Sources say the TWC board initially aligned with Tom Barrack – the private equity investor who was senior adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and served as the chairman of his inaugural committee — who made a move to acquire the reeling company for $216 million, a price tag that was well below market value. In response, the consortium of banks holding TWC debt balked, as did the company’s female staff, who vocally opposed getting out from under Harvey Weinstein only to be owned by a Trump pal. The Barrack deal fell apart, leaving the company one step closer to bankruptcy.
Two months later, in mid-December 2017, Bob Weinstein shot off a series of emails to billionaire supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, whose team was putting the finishing touches on an offer to buy TWC for $500 million in a deal that would set aside $75 million for survivors of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse and harassment. In exchange for consenting to the bid, Bob Weinstein had his own demands. Referring to the firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, which was representing the TWC board, he wrote in an email to Burkle, “Basically the boards [sic] lawyers have discussed a way, that they think they can successfully remove just a few of the Dimension titles from the offer to take care of certain of our needs. U will not be adversely affected at all, but it will pave the way o [sic] a successful transaction.” He then listed 16 film and TV projects that he wanted to extricate so he could start his own new company, including Paddington 3 (“This is my baby. If Warners picks up a sequel in two or three years we get 2.5 million dollars, not a lot.”), Scream, and Spy Kids (“They are my legacy.”). He also pushed for a $34 million payout, sources say. (“The potential out-of-court sale to the Ron Burkles [sic]’ company (Yucaipa Companies) did not happen,” Cravath attorney Paul Zumbro told Rolling Stone via email when asked about Bob Weinstein’s email to Burkle. “The Weinstein Company’s assets were sold to Lantern Capital in a bankruptcy court supervised and approved sale.”)
As had happened with Barrack, the Burkle deal disintegrated, and Lantern stepped in to purchase the existing TWC library. But Burkle still ended up profiting off of TWC cast-offs as a financier behind what is arguably the most successful title extracted from the Weinstein Company scrap heap: the Paramount Network series Yellowstone. Created by Oscar nominee Taylor Sheridan and starring Kevin Costner, the Montana-set Western was in production on its first season when Harvey Weinstein was exposed. It has since become a TV juggernaut, with a fifth season in the works, as well as spin-offs like 1883 and a whole interconnected universe of prequels and sequels, including the series 6666.
Yellowstone has formed the bedrock of 101 Studios, a company co-founded in January 2019 by former TWC COO David Glasser — who was sometimes described as the so-called third Weinstein brother — with $300 million dollars in funding from a handful of investors, including Burkle. The year prior, Schneiderman had alleged in his lawsuit that Glasser (referred to in the lawsuit only by his title, COO) had failed to investigate Harvey Weinstein’s conduct or to protect TWC’s female employees. In comments made after filing the suit, Schneiderman called out Glasser by name, stating that he had supervised the human resources department of TWC, yet did not stop Harvey’s “harassment and abuse, even though he was in charge of handling dozens of shocking complaints.” An attorney for Glasser notes that his client wasn’t a board member and says Glasser “voluntarily met with the AG who ultimately decided not to bring any claims whatsoever against him.”
Some details of the Yellowstone asset transfer have raised eyebrows in Hollywood. According to a 2018 story in Variety, Paramount’s parent company, Viacom, advanced The Weinstein Company $20 million in April 2017 to begin production on the show. But around the time of Harvey Weinstein’s reckoning, TWC defaulted on its payments, and Paramount took control of the property. Viacom, which had little interest in backing the expensive series, decided to flip it to a new investor, according to industry newsletter Puck, and found the highest bidder in Glasser and Burkle’s 101 Studios (their offer: $20 million for Yellowstone and all of Sheridan’s projects).
What remains opaque is exactly when Paramount took over the Yellowstone rights — and whether, under bankruptcy law, the property should be returned to the TWC library so that its profits can be factored into a victims’ compensation fund. (According to filings made as recently as January 2019, a company called WTV Yellowstone SPV, LLC was listed among Weinstein Co. assets.) That possibility has prompted multiple creditors and survivors with open claims against Weinstein to push for re-examination of the transaction, with several of them telling Rolling Stone that they are considering pursuing legal action to try to bring Yellowstone back into the pool of bankruptcy assets. The timing is ripe, given that no decision has been made yet as to how any money remaining in the bankruptcy estate will be distributed beyond the $17 million class-action settlement.
Nick Iezza, a partner at Spiwak & Iezza, which specializes in creditor rights, says Yellowstone should receive a careful inspection. “If it was owned by Weinstein prior to the bankruptcy, red flags should have gone up now that Yellowstone has become a hit,” he says. “The trustee in the bankruptcy should absolutely be looking to claw this asset back into the estate to be used for the benefit of all the creditors.”
One major TWC creditor adds that if the profits do go back into the trust, “it could benefit every single victim and every single company, every single creditor, proportionately to whatever the judges decide there.”
Glasser’s rep says the transaction was legal and made on the open market.
Yellowstone isn’t the only TWC project that wound up with members of Weinstein’s inner circle. The 2019 horror film Polaroid, one of the titles that Bob Weinstein demanded as the studio was in freefall, prompted legal wrangling over who actually owned it. First Republic Bank alleged that Spyglass/Lantern never properly acquired the movie about a high-school loner who wields a spooky vintage camera. Regardless, Bob Weinstein received an executive-producing credit and a financial stake in the film two years after he was named in the lawsuit following Schneiderman’s investigation as someone who was “repeatedly presented with credible evidence of [his brother’s] sexual harassment of TWC employees and resources to facilitate sexual activity with third parties, amidst allegations that HW had engaged in unlawful sexual conduct.” (Current New York Attorney General Letitia James declined to pursue the suit after Scheiderman resigned over allegations of physical abuse against women; Schneiderman ultimately admitted and apologized for his conduct.)
“People were taken care of or people took care of themselves right before they orchestrated The Weinstein Company’s strategic sale and subsequent implosion, which in hindsight seems chaotic by design,” says Weinstein survivor Melissa Thompson. “It’s illegal, unethical, immoral, and they should be ashamed of themselves.”
The outcry comes at a time when others in the Weinstein orbit are taking heat for their possible complicity in his criminal behavior. (Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year sentence in a New York prison after being convicted in 2020 of first degree sexual assault and third degree rape; he has also been indicted on 11 counts of sexual assault in Los Angeles, with the next hearing in that case set for May 4.) Earlier this month, Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., told Fox Business that Disney exhibited a lack of “morals” during its ownership of TWC’s precursor Miramax from 1993 to 2005. Likewise, some Weinstein survivors are livid that former Miramax attorney Steve Hutensky now enjoys a successful career as a film and TV producer (Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers) despite his involvement in two binding nondisclosure agreements that silenced a pair of Harvey Weinstein’s victims for nearly two decades.
Steve Hutensky shrouded “the evil that Harvey perpetuated against women for decades,” says Weinstein survivor Rowena Chiu, who claims Weinstein attempted to rape her on a business trip in 1998 and that she settled with the mogul during secret arbitration negotiations that same year, during which Hutensky was present. “He actively defended it. He totally was part of the silencing. His initials are on every page. His blood was on each page.”
Irwin Reiter, who was a senior executive at Miramax at the time and interacted daily with Disney brass on various matters, says the secret settlements with Chiu and Zelda Perkins laid the groundwork for the abuse that followed. “If Steve Hutensky had told me what the hell happened with Rowena, I would have told Disney, and game over. How many women would have been spared?”
Hutensky declined comment.
Likewise, Weinstein’s longtime attorney, David Boies, continues to work on high-profile film projects, such as Netflix’s 2021 Melissa McCarthy film The Starling and the 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? As The New York Times has reported, just one year into Boies’ work with Weinstein, in 2002, the lawyer “talked the New Yorker out of publishing allegations of sexual harassment” against his client, despite knowing there had been settlements with some accusers. (Boies maintained, as per his client, that the encounters had been consensual.) Boies’ reputation also took a hit when Ronan Farrow reported in The New Yorker that Boies had enlisted private corporate intel firm Black Cube to do aggressive opposition research on accuser Rose McGowan.
“I don’t believe the Black Cube contract is fairly characterized as engaging them to do ‘aggressive opposition research,’” Boies says. “The contract dealt with only a single accuser who had been public in her accusations, which Harvey Weinstein vigorously denied, and the purpose of the contract was to find out if there were facts that would disprove those accusations.”
But Boies also played a role in keeping the TWC board in line, often pushing back when Weinstein’s behavior was questioned. In an August 2015 letter to board member Lance Maerov, who had complained about the mogul’s erratic behavior and wild corporate spending, including a $27,000 tip to the crew of a yacht, Boies wrote, “Your exaggerated, and a bit hysterical ‘threats of physical violence against me’ further illustrates my point. If you believe that Harvey was really threatening or intending to attack you physically, that is as good an indication of your paranoia concerning Harvey as I can think of.” He further referred to Maerov’s claim as coming down to “personal animus.”
“It’s not surprising, but so depressing, to see that people who covered up for Weinstein are having success in a post-MeToo era,” says Melissa Silverstein, founder of the advocacy website Women and Hollywood and artistic director of the Athena Film Festival. “Not only are they not paying a price, but they seem to be thriving. Hollywood wants to give people a pass. But it’s a reminder the MeToo era is still with us and always will be.”
Though members of Weinstein’s inner circle and TWC insiders claim they knew little to nothing of Weinstein’s abuse, the Geiss-led class-action suit, which was filed in December 2017, claimed otherwise. As summarized by the judge in that case, the plaintiffs alleged that the TWC board and management, among others, “knew of and/or participated in” settlements with some of Weinstein’s victims as well as negotiations surrounding Weinstein’s employment contracts “which made Weinstein partially liable for future settlements or judgments relating to sexual misconduct,” and facilitated Weinstein’s assaults. The suit maintained, for example, that both Glasser and Ben Ammar were aware of an NYPD sting to obtain a confession from Weinstein after he assaulted model Ambra Gutierrez in 2015, as well as the follow-up settlement with the model.
The class-action suit, which echoes other civil complaints that have been filed by Weinstein victims, also claimed that board members were aware of a 2015 memo written by then-TWC employee Lauren O’Connor, who was concerned about her boss’ behavior with many actresses he invited to general meetings in various hotel rooms around the world. That memo, which became a key element of the New York Times exposé that brought Weinstein down in October 2017, cited numerous incidents of Weinstein harassing or coercing vulnerable women into sexual activity. Glasser appears to have done the right thing in the case of the O’Connor memo, forwarding it to a member of the board — a point that is bolstered by the New York Attorney General’s complaint, which alleged: “By early 2015, certain corporate executives at TWC who had received and handled numerous claims of misconduct from TWC employees, including the COO, became so concerned about HW’s misconduct towards women, as well as his expenditure of company resources on improper items, that they decided they needed to notify an independent member of the Board about the misconduct.” But, the lawsuit alleged that according to board minutes, “the Board ratified HW’s new employment contract unanimously.”
A separate suit filed in 2017 by actress Wedil David offers a stunning window into how the board addressed Weinstein’s pattern of predatory behavior. The suit outlined Weinstein’s 2015 employment contract, which assigned a dollar figure to any future assaults he might commit. According to the terms, Weinstein would be required to pay $250,000 for the first instance of “misconduct,” $500,000 for a second instance, $750,000 for a third instance, and $1,000,000 for each instance thereafter. David was allegedly raped by Weinstein at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills months after that contract was approved by Bob Weinstein and board members including Ben Ammar.
In both the Geiss and David cases, the board members were later dismissed from the suits. Geiss, for one, was disgusted by Judge Alvin Hellerstein’s response to how the all-male board negotiated monetary penalties for sexual assaults. “They didn’t fire him because [Harvey Weinstein] was making gifted movies, and they were making a lot of money for the company,” Hellerstein said during a hearing. Hellerstein ultimately concluded that TWC and its officers and directors named in Geiss’ complaint had not benefited from Weinstein’s sexual misconduct itself, and dropped them from the case.
That rankled many of the plaintiffs and their attorneys. “We had steadfastly rejected the proposed settlement in bankruptcy because it let Harvey Weinstein’s enablers off scot free, and it took away victims’ rights to continue to be able to hold [the board] accountable,” David’s attorney, Doug Wigdor, tells Rolling Stone. “Unfortunately, the court ultimately ruled that the victims don’t have a choice.”
Adds Geiss, “If the board and officers had just done their job, which is to out a rapist, none of us would be talking about it right now. We worked so hard for four-and-a-half years to be heard and make a difference, but then, unfortunately, a series of male judges decided to give Harvey’s biggest enablers a free pass.”
Meanwhile, the Ben Ammar-backed Spyglass continues to push out content that had once been part of the TWC fold — including a Hellraiser reboot headed to Hulu later this year and a Spy Kids movie in development at Netflix — while Yellowstone continues to dominate the airwaves.
If the TWC asset diaspora has left a bad taste in the mouths of victims, Masse, for one, is taking corrective action on her own. The actress-screenwriter has launched the Hire Survivors Hollywood initiative. It is intended to offer a course correction for Hollywood’s recent track record of working with enablers and ignoring the victims.
“The fact that abusers, and those complicit in the abuse, are often protected due to the perceived financial value they bring to the table is shortsighted,” says Masse. “The legal and financial implications of protecting and promoting abusers is high, while hiring survivors and those who are committed to equity, justice, and inclusion is a winning bet.”