US film and TV studio The Weinstein Company, whose ex-chairman Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment and assault, said on Monday it has filed for bankruptcy with an offer from an affiliate of private equity firm Lantern Capital Partners to acquire its assets.
Crucially, the company also said it was releasing all employees from non-disclosure agreements.
“Today, the Company also takes an important step toward justice for any victims who have been silenced by Harvey Weinstein,” read the statement.
“Since October, it has been reported that Harvey Weinstein used non-disclosure agreements as a secret weapon to silence his accusers. Effective immediately, those ‘agreements’ end.
“No one should be afraid to speak out or coerced to stay quiet. 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.”
The step had long been sought by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, who filed a lawsuit against the company last month on behalf of its employees. Schneiderman called the move “a watershed moment”.
The Weinstein Company, which has about 100 employees, filed for bankruptcy, listing $500m to $1bn in liabilities and $500m to $1bn in assets.
The studio’s bankruptcy comes after it spent months looking for a buyer or investor. The company inked a deal with an investor group led by former Obama administration official Maria Contreras-Sweet, but the group terminated its offer earlier this month after seeing that the company had more liabilities than previously disclosed.
Weinstein Co said in a statement it entered into a “stalking horse” agreement with a Lantern Capital affiliate, that would purchase substantially all of the assets of the company.
The offer from Lantern will set the floor for higher and better bidders in a court-supervised auction.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp had made an earlier offer for some of the company’s assets, as had Qatar-owned film company Miramax, which was founded by Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob Weinstein. Both could be among potential bidders in the auction.
More than 70 women accused the company’s co-founder, Harvey Weinstein, who was one of Hollywood’s most influential men, of sexual misconduct, including rape. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.
Movie producer Killer Content also said bankruptcy would be the best option for the company, and that it may be interested in the studio’s assets in a bankruptcy auction.
Launched in October 2005, the studio produced and distributed critically acclaimed hits including The King’s Speech and Silver Linings Playbook, as well as TV series such as long-running fashion reality competition Project Runway.