ENTERTAINMENT
03/02/2018 11:25 am ET Updated Mar 03, 2018

Ex-Obama Official Maria Contreras-Sweet Buys Weinstein Company

The Hollywood outsider hopes to transform the film studio into a "woman-led venture."

A group of investors led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, who ran the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama, reached a deal to buy The Weinstein Company, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman confirmed.

“Our office will support a deal that ensures victims will be adequately compensated, employees will be protected moving forward, and those who were responsible for misconduct at TWC will not be unjustly rewarded,” Schneidermann said in a statement. 

Contreras-Sweet and her backers, including billionaire investor Ronald Burkle,  bid $500 million on the film production company, which included assuming $225 million worth of debt, according to Variety. The deal, which Schneiderman said was reached Thursday, also features an $80-million compensation fund for victims of Weinstein’s harassment and abuse.

TWC announced Monday that it would have to file for bankruptcy, following Schneiderman’s decision last month to sue the studio for violating anti-discrimination and harassment laws. 

The studio views the deal as “a positive outcome under what have been incredibly difficult circumstances,” it told The Guardian in a statement.

TWC began sliding toward bankruptcy when its board of directors fired co-founder and chairman Harvey Weinstein in October amid dozens of sexual assault allegations against him. Weinstein has denied all accusations of nonconsensual sex.

The Weinstein Company, founded in 2005, is behind several blockbuster films and popular TV shows, including “Lion,” “Django Unchained” and “Project Runway.”

Contreras-Sweet, a Hollywood outsider and Mexican-American immigrant, reportedly plans to keep the studio’s employees, projects and assets. But she intends to give the company a new name, according to multiple media outlets.

In her November proposal letter to the company’s board of directors, Contreras-Sweet said she hoped to transform the studio into a “woman-led venture.”

“The recent events at The Weinstein Company have put focus on how women in the entertainment industry have been treated,” she wrote. “We believe that reorganizing the Company as a woman-led venture will be an inspiration to the industry, and a new model for how an entertainment company can be both financially successful and treat all its employees with dignity and respect.”

Other bidders included entertainment company Lionsgate, as well as New York-based production company Killer Content in partnership with philanthropist Abigail Disney.

George Kieffer, who previously served with Contreras-Sweet on the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, told Vanity Fair that Contreras-Sweet didn’t have experience running a film company but that she would “figure a way to figure it out.”

“I think that she’s had enough experience in enough positions by now to know that you hire great people and manage them well, and when she needs to be engaged directly she will be,” Kieffer said.

Prior to serving in Obama’s Cabinet, Contreras-Sweet was the executive chairman of ProAmerica Bank, a commercial bank she founded in 2006 that specialized in Latino-owned businesses.

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