It’s getting hard to follow the ping-pong game that has become the Ron Tutor deal to buy Miramax from The Walt Disney Company.
On the heels of throwing David Bergstein under a bus in a Hollywood Reporter interview, billionaire Ron Tutor took it all back in two letters obtained by WaxWord.
Meanwhile, Bergstein says he plans to sue the Reporter.
Oy. Ok, let's take this one step at a time.
Last week WaxWord reported that Tutor had won agreement to purchase Miramax for $675 million from Disney, along with partners David Bergstein, Colony Capital and Morgan Creek.
The deal was not closed yet, but two individuals close to it confirmed all of the elements: Tutor would run the place, Bergstein would have a senior advisory role, Morgan Creek would distribute and Colony Capital would help fund.
But today all that changed, it seemed. Tutor gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter in which he distanced himself from Bergstein, a guy who has lots of baggage in the way of bankruptcy, unpaid bills and plenty of Hollywood creditors.
The Reporter wrote:
Tutor unleashed a bombshell: There will be no role in the new theatrical distribution company for the controversial David Bergstein, with whom Tutor has been investing in movies and movie companies for the past seven years.
Tutor, 69, did not mince words about his former partner, making clear that the relationship with Bergstein is "strained" while expressing pity for his former friend and his failings.
"There's something very nice about (Bergstein) when you meet him, he's very charming," Tutor said. "But as I've told him a number of times, he needs to look inward. All the sick things he did, gambling money he didn't have, trying to grow a business he didn't know and borrowing the way he did, and the madness, to sum it up, of what took place, he's got to learn from it because it virtually destroyed him."
This wide-ranging interview seems more than strange, coming while Tutor remains under a tight confidentiality agreement with Disney. (When WaxWord approached Disney CEO Bob Iger about the deal in Sun Valley last week he hastened to say that he couldn't speak about it, because of the nondisclosure strictures.)
The deal is still not closed, so potentially upsetting Disney with an on-record interview would be weird – unless Disney gave its blessing. Could Disney be looking to make the deal more palatable to the guilds who have cried foul over Bergstein's involvement? (He owes their members money.)
Perhaps, but then Tutor took it all back. He wrote to the Reporter on Monday, claiming he was misquoted and giving Bergstein credit for the deal.
“I do not recall using the word ‘sick’ or anything as negative as you printed in your article,” he wrote in a letter obtained by WaxWord.
“For the record, if it wasn’t for his (Bergstein) convincing me to relook at Miramax as an outstanding transaction, I would not be fortunate enough to be in the position I am now.”
And WaxWord also obtained a letter Tutor wrote to Bergstein, in which he confirmed that the financier does indeed remain a close consultant on the Miramax deal, and regretting having given the interview.
“I never used the word ‘sick’ or ‘madness,’” he wrote to Bergstein today. “We were obviously still doing business with your significant consulting role in the Disney Miramax transaction.”
“Significant role?” What happened to throwing Bergstein under the bus?
It gets better. “You know your role in this transaction,” he writes further, “and so do the partners, and it has been invaluable. And believe it or not, I still trust you.”
The letter was copied to Tom Barrack, the CEO of Colony Capital, and Jim Robinson, of Morgan Creek.
So is Bergstein in, or out?
One thing for sure, Bergstein says he is still in the deal. “Yes, I will (continue),” he told TheWrap. “I’m in an advisory, consulting role. I was never running it. I continue to be moving the deal forward. I engineered the entire transaction and I will continue.”
And he says he will be suing The Hollywood Reporter and the writer, Alex Ben Block, for writing misinformation.
“We are filing a lawsuit against the Hollywood Reporter and Alex Ben Block,” he said. "We have warned them twice in the past. They have published knowingly false information.”
Bergstein’s lawyer Mitchell Silberberg wrote to the Reporter in February with a long list of complaints of factual errors in another Ben Block story about Bergstein.
“We were going to sue them 2 months ago, because Alex Ben Block was printing false information, he made me a target. This is the last straw.”
Asked for comment, Hollywood Reporter editor Elizabeth Guider told TheWrap: “We stand by our story.”