Updated at 11 pm:
Incredibly, the third bidder for Miramax appears to be David Bergstein, the bankrupt, besieged and widely reviled financier-producer whose assets were taken over by a judge-appointed trustee barely a week ago.
Despite his severe financial straits, Bergstein and his Pangea Media Group had been reported to be circling Miramax two months ago.
Bergstein is believed to have found financial backing from Deutsche Bank and a Saudi Arabian investor. He was said to have been on the Disney lot on Tuesday.
As WaxWord reported earlier today, Bergstein’s bid is higher than those of The Weinstein Company and the Gores brothers.
He could not be reached for comment, nor would Disney comment.
If confirmed, it is shocking that Disney would consider selling as prestigious a library as that of Miramax to someone whose financial shenanigans have left an angry trail of Hollywood creditors in his wake.
More than two dozen creditors, including Hollywood’s major guilds who are suing him for royalties, put a halt to the sale of Bergstein’s assets – mainly a film library – several weeks ago.
On March 30, a judge appointed a trustee to oversee all of Bergstein’s assets, including from Capitol, THINKFilm, Franchise and other companies he controls.
Bergstein has angered many in Hollywood for abandoning films in mid-production, and for failing to pay people even after they’ve gone to court and been awarded judgements.
Among the Directors Guild complaints are that Gregory Nava, the director of Bergstein’s "Bordertown," was never paid $450,000 of compensation, even though the guild won a 2007 arbitration judgment against Bergstein’s companies.
In a claim filed last year, the guild said that current DGA President Taylor Hackford was owed $237,500 of his $500,000 salary for directing "Love Ranch."
Bergstein’s debts are just as severe on the other side of the Atlantic. A British judge two months ago put Bergstein’s Capitol Films into "administration," akin to Chapter 11.
Court fiings show that Bergstein is deeply in debt, with creditors including Comerica Bank, SAG, the DGA, Newmarket Capital, Dexia Bank of Luxembourg, Cobalt Pictures, the U.K. Film Council, the New Mexico Investment Council, Allied Irish Banks, D.B. Zwirn Special Opportunities Fund and the Aramid Entertainment Fund.
The obligations to Comerica — Bergstein’s long-standing banking partner — are for at least some $75 million.
Three companies have submitted bids to buy Miramax, the arthouse division of the Walt Disney Company, according to a knowledgeable individual.
Two of the bidders were known – The Weinstein Company and Platinum Equity – but a mystery third bidder entered the process seriously only last week and bid this week at the final April 5 deadline.
WaxWord previously reported the entry of the third bidder (Miramax Mystery: Bidder No. 3 Enters the Fray), a strategic player whose business is related to that of Miramax. But Time-Warner, News Corp and Lionsgate – all of whom might be logical partners – are not among those bidding, WaxWord has confirmed.
Meanwhile, other details among the bidders emerged.
The Weinstein Company is being backed by Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle, according to two individuals with knowledge of the deal. In addition to Burkle, a financial institution is supporting the efforts of the Weinstein brothers, who originally founded the studio and named it after their parents Miriam and Max, to regain control of the property.
Tom Gores, of Platinum Equity, and his financier brother Alec, have also bid for Miramax, and are being advised by a third brother Sam, who runs the talent agency, Paradigm.
Both Weinstein and Platinum are believed to have bid very close to the $600 million figure that Disney said was the minimum price they were seeking. (Down from their original ask of $700 million.)
But the third bidder was believed to have submitted an offer that was higher than both of those.
Disney did not respond to request for comment on any bids.
Previously: Miramax Mystery: Bidder No. 3 Enters the Fray