TheWrapWaxword – TheWrap Covering Hollywood Sun, 18 Mar 2018 20:19:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What I Learned at TheWrap’s BE Conference on Mentorship Wed, 14 Mar 2018 02:54:26 +0000 Sharon Waxman I’ve come away from TheWrap’s second conference to mentor millennial women in entertainment and media hugely inspired, and more convinced than ever that we are in the midst of real change on behalf of women’s leadership.

We were 250 millennials and about 30 mentors digging deep into what holds women back from success and what keeps them from being their best, and hearing from some of those who have overcome obstacles to achieve incredible things. Looking back on the experience, here are the lessons I learned.

  1. Things worth doing are tough. The fear will be there. Do it anyway.

Across the dozen or so keynotes and panels, there was a common thread: Everybody feels fear when facing challenges. Even the former sheriff of Dallas County, Lupe Valdez, who is now the first female, Latina, gay person to run for Governor of Texas.

Valdez was the daughter of farm workers, and now at age 70, she said she decided to run for governor despite the odds stacked against her and the lack of historical precedent. Throughout her life in public service people were “mean, hateful and conniving” and she would go home and cry, she said. And then she’d get up the next day and do it again.

Or as New York City Public Advocate Letitia James put it in her one-on-one interview: “Don’t be paralyzed by fear. Put your high heels on, turn your red bottoms up, and just go seize it. I don’t want to quote rap right now, but I ‘started from the bottom, now I’m here.'”

If you ask me, James — someone who probably inspires fear in her political adversaries — is calling it like it is: “We have too many men in Congress who are pale, male and stale,” she said. “It’s time to change that.”

  1. #MeToo happened to Rachel Bloom.

I expected to have a fun, smart conversation with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star and co-creator Rachel Bloom about blazing a trail in comedy with the show that combines musical theater with her particularly dark strain of funny. Instead, Rachel came ready to call out two men she says sexually harassed her a decade ago. The men had been her mentors when she was at college at New York University, but instead wanted to sleep with her. Except Bloom put it more bluntly, a whole bunch of times. (That girl is an excellent curser.)

It took the #MeToo movement for her to realize that what she experienced at age 19 was in fact harassment. At the time it was Bloom, not the men, who paid the price; she was removed as the head of the Tisch sketch comedy group she was part of, while the men went on to become widely known in the comedy world today. (She chose not to name them. We can wonder… or we can Google her year at Tisch.)

Bloom said she finally called the other men in the troupe just last week, and confronted them about this. To their credit, she said, they immediately copped to the situation and apologized.

Bloom also did not name someone else in the industry who inappropriately touches her even now. Bloom said that when this happens at cocktail parties, she shrinks inside.

Point is: even a successful, ballsy broad like Rachel Bloom questions herself when she feels boundaries are overstepped, instead of calling out the man in question.

  1. Lean on other women. There is strength in sisterhood. And sometimes, a career.

We also had three incredible women from the Baroness von Sketch Show, who recounted that they were, individually, destitute and down to their last dime(s) before their comedy troupe came together five years ago.

Jennifer Whalen said she had a great career when she was in her 20s and early 30s as a comedy writer, and the guys thought she was cute. They didn’t think she was cute after she turned 40, and no longer wanted her in the writer’s room.

But when she met Carolyn Taylor, Meredith MacNeill and Aurora Browne, the Baronesses von Sketch were born.

Two brave survivors of Harvey Weinstein attacks, Jessica Barth and Sarah Ann Masse, were also present to share their truths, and to counsel other women about how to prevent the experiences they had in Hollywood.

We talked about confidence, and body image, and how to build an empire as an entrepreneur. We talked about marketing and Matt Lauer with Katie Couric. We talked about political activism. (Choice line from LA Women’s March organizer Emiliana Guereca, when critics called her march a “bitchfest”: “So,” she shot back, “Are you coming?”) We learned to reach for the stars with NASA astrophysicist Andrea Razzaghi, and to listen quietly to the beauty that makes up the gift of sound with Dolby chief scientist Poppy Crum.

Here’s what else I learned: the rising millennials are full of ambition and smarts. They are eager to learn and they want mentors.

Here’s some of the coverage, and I invite you to read it and get inspired too.

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Scene at TheWrap's Power Women Breakfast Austin 2018 (Photos)

Lili Reinhart Calls Out Cosmo Philippines for Photoshopping Her on International Women's Day

'Jessica Jones' Costume Designer Says #MeToo Movement Supports 'Women Dressing for Women'

NY Times Belatedly Publishes Obits of Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Brontë and Other Women It Ignored at the Time

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WrapWomen Launches Power Women Summit for 1,000 Leaders in Media and Entertainment Sun, 11 Mar 2018 17:49:33 +0000 Sharon Waxman AUSTIN, Texas – WrapWomen, the producer of TheWrap’s Power Women breakfast series, will convene a summit of 1,000 women in media and entertainment in November to inspire and empower them across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives.

Actresses Mira Sorvino and Olivia Wilde along with A&E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc and #MeToo Movement Founder Tarana Burke are among the speakers who will participate in the first ever Power Women Summit on November 1 & 2, 2018 in Los Angeles.

The Power Women Summit ( will take place in Los Angeles on November 1 & 2, 2018.

“We seek to connect the leading women of our Power Women Breakfasts nationwide and extend the spirit of achievement and excellence created at those boutique events at a national level,” said TheWrap’s Editor in Chief Sharon Waxman, speaking at the Power Women Breakfast in Austin during SXSW.

The Summit, produced under the auspices of WrapWomen will provide a full day of education, mentorship, workshops and networking to promote women’s leadership in entertainment and media and related professions.

The spirit of 5050by2020 is a driving force in all of the Summit’s programming and messaging.
An advisory board of influential women who represent the many facets of the entertainment and media industries will support the planning and programming of the event. They are:
  • Cathy Shulman, President, Women in Film

  • Stephanie Allain, Founder, Homegrown Pictures

  • DeeDee Myers, EVP, Worldwide Public Affairs, Warner Bros

  • Nina Shaw, Partner, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka

  • Keleigh Thomas Morgan, Partner, Sunshine Sachs

  • Melissa Silverstein, Founder & Publisher, Women and Hollywood

  • Cindi Leive, former Editor, Glamour

  • Susan Brooks, Founder, Forefront Partners

  • Kelly Bush Novak, CEO, ID

  • Beatriz Acevedo, Founding Partner and President, mitú

A number of non profit industry organizations have come on board to support the Power Women Summit including Women in Film, Women and Hollywood, Time’s Up, We Do It Together and International Women’s Media Foundation.

The Power Women Summit will integrate a significant philanthropic component to raise up women who would benefit from an extended hand.  WrapWomen will donate 10% of net proceeds to Times Up and other significant women-oriented nonprofits.

For more information about the conference including participation, programming or sponsorship please contact

Contact: Kathy Selim
(424) 248 0662


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TV Powerhouse Rachel Bloom Joins BE Conference at SXSW 2018! Tue, 06 Mar 2018 18:09:27 +0000 Sharon Waxman Rachel Bloom, the co-creator and star of television hit comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” will join TheWrap’s BE Conference for mentorship in a special one-on-one spotlight interview at SXSW on March 12.

The second annual BE Conference for millennial women takes place on March 11 & 12 during SXSW.

Also newly added to the BE Conference lineup is the talented duo, writer-director Julia Hart and producer Jordan Horowitz (“La La Land”), with their film “Fast Color” which is premiering at SXSW.

They join a stunning lineup of inspiring women and mentors at TheWrap’s conference, including:

  • Award-winning journalist Katie Couric
  • Aurora Browne, Jennifer Whalen, and Meredith MacNeill of the Baroness von Sketch troupe;
  • New York City Public Advocate Letitia James;
  • Activists and Harvey Weinstein accusers Sarah Ann Masse and Jessica Barth;
  • Pussyhat movement cofounder Jayna Zweiman and many others.

Check the full list of mentors and speakers at

Rachel Bloom is a rare multi-talented star, a performer, writer, director and improv and musical comedienne. She recently wrapped her third season starring in the CW show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” for which she has won a Golden Globe and has been thrice nominated for the Emmy. The series stars Bloom as Rebecca Bunch, a successful, driven, and arguably crazy young woman who impulsively gives up everything – partnership at a prestigious law firm, an upscale apartment in Manhattan – in a desperate attempt to find love and happiness in suburban West Covina, California.

Bloom’s film “Most Likely to Murder,” written by Dan Gregor (her husband) and Doug Man, will premiere at SXSW. She costars in the dark comedy about a cool kid returning to his hometown 15 years after high school graduation.

Julia Hart is an up and coming female filmmaker with a passion for women’s issues. Hart directed “Fast Color,” which stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lorraine Toussaint & David Strathairn. The film is produced and co-written by Jordan Horowitz.

Horowitz is an Academy Award nominated producer who most recently produced “La La Land.” At the 2017 Academy Awards, Horowitz entered the history books when he handed the Best Picture Oscar to Barry Jenkins after his film was mistakenly called as the winner. “La La Land” was nominated for a record 14 Oscars and won 6, including Best Director for Damien Chazelle and Best Actress for Emma Stone. Hart & Horowitz, partners in marriage and business co-founded the film and television production company Original Headquarters.

The BE Conference is a premier conference that connects change makers seeking to make an impact with game changers at the top of their fields who want to inspire and mentor the next generation of leaders. The audience consists of 350 millennials, including entrepreneurs, influencers and rising stars in their respective worlds, along with 50 mentors who are eager to teach and learn from each other.

Launched in 2017 by TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, BE Conference offers keynote interviews, panel discussions, workshops, networking and mentoring sessions that build meaningful connections, encourage constructive change, and empower the next generation to BE the best possible version of themselves.

VIP tickets can be purchased for BE Conference 2018 and include exclusive access to mentors and entrance to Power Women Breakfast SXSW in Austin. More information on attending, sponsoring or mentoring at BE is available at

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At the Oscars’ Governors Ball, Relief at a Break From All the Scandal Mon, 05 Mar 2018 22:03:21 +0000 Sharon Waxman The relief was palpable for a scandal-worn Hollywood at the Governors Ball on Sunday night —  at the familiarity of the Oscar ritual, at the results of the awards. Finally tradition was back and respected and for a minute no change was needed.

The industry needed a moment to catch its breath after the laserlike scrutiny of the media around #TimesUp, and from nonstop waves of business consolidation and cultural criticism. And, hey, it was nice to have a telecast with a minimum of catastrophic screw-ups.

There was lots of love in the room for Guillermo del Toro, winner for both Best Picture and Best Director. He said all the right words at the podium, and it’s undeniable that he has become a beloved figure across the industry through this awards season.

“It’s justice,” said Alejandro Innaritu, who has himself twice won Best Director and Best Picture, for “The Revenant” and “Birdman,” and is one of Del Toro’s closest friends. He was beaming with pride, even though it wasn’t his win.

“The guy has been giving himself and his imagination and curiosity and his heart in every film,” he went on. “And after 25 years he’s recognized in this way — something came back.”

There were deep sighs of joy, and relief too, around the Fox Searchlight table. The arthouse studio released both “Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and had a well-deserved moment of triumph — playing to win at the Oscars without the resources of the bigger competitors (including parent company Fox).

The studio’s many wins on Oscar night might dissipate, at least a little, the nimbus of anxiety that hangs over its future as it heads toward a new owner in Disney. Nancy Utley, Steve Gilula and all their executives seemed practically bent over from joyful exhaling, and hovered like happy parents around their winners and nominees – including Richard Jenkins and Sam Rockwell. Even past Fox studio chief Jim Gianopulos (now running Paramount) couldn’t stay away.

We buttonholed Frances McDormand who responded with a sharp – “What are you looking for?” – before we could get out “Congratulations and what about this inclusion rider?”

She paused to explain: “It’s a contractual thing that’s been in place for a long time. I didn’t know about it and I’ve been in the business for 35 years. But anyone negotiating a contract – director, writer, actor – we can have an inclusion rider saying we ask for at least 50 percent diversity in the cast and the crew.”

Can that be achieved when so many movies don’t have an equal number of roles for men and women?

The balance can be spread, she explained.

“Just look a little bit closer, you’ll find not tokenism but you can find someone ready to step into that role who is diverse,” she said.

There’s a question of whether or not this is practical in the tough negotiating byways of the business — but “that’s the hope,” said her agent Brian Swardstrom, acknowledging that it probably can’t happen overnight.

Meanwhile, business rivalries were spread across the room, unspoken and present. Bob Iger and his team — who won Oscars for “Coco” and its song, and whose “Black Panther” rules at the box office — was on one side of the ballroom. Meanwhile, Comcast chief Brian Roberts stood with the Universal and Focus team on the other side. The two chieftains are effectively facing off over the European cable behemoth, Sky, which Comcast just swooped in to try and buy out from under Rupert Murdoch, who is in the middle of a deal to sell his movie and TV assets to Disney.

Meanwhile, grocery billionaire Ron Burkle — who supposedly bought The Weinstein Company last week with Maria Contreras-Sweet — didn’t want to talk. “I’m just here to have fun with my friends,” he said, begging off business chat.

Everyone seemed to have the same idea. Exhaustion from the business mano-a-mano and the do-not-call-him-by-his-Harvey-Weinstein name was like a spell spread all around the room.

For an hour or two, it was like movie heaven.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Oscars Viewership Drops to All-Time Low of 26.5 Million

Seth MacFarlane Thinks There's Too Much Drama at the Oscars

Emma Watson Sports 'Time's Up' Tattoo After the Oscars (Photo)

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OscarsSoWoke: Can Hollywood Celebrate in Year of Behaving Badly? Sun, 04 Mar 2018 17:32:57 +0000 Sharon Waxman This year’s Oscars will go down as the sober year, the year when everybody was chastened and behaved and vowed to be part of a new Hollywood.

It’s the first year in decades in which Harvey Weinstein won’t be present. There will be no Kevin Spacey or Brett Ratner, anywhere. Casey Affleck has discreetly bowed out of presenting at the telecast, feeling unwelcome after past accusations about his behavior. Other guards have changed as well: For the first time in years, Graydon Carter will not preside over his Vanity Fair party for the glitterati.

And all anyone in the vast media machine covering the Oscars wants to know is: Will nominees on the red carpet talk to Ryan Seacrest? And how will they show their fealty to #TimesUp?

(I’m going to pause here to say: I’m a supporter of #TimesUp. Thanks and troll away if you like.)

The movies themselves seem to be relegated to the province of the film nerds. It seems that unless there’s a rah-rah politically woke message to be had — the message of womanhood in”Ladybird,” of racial diversity in “Get Out” — we don’t seem to care all that much.

But Greta Gerwig’s work should be celebrated because she is a gifted filmmaker whose story packed a punch of pure authenticity, not because she’s a woman. And “Get Out” writer-director Jordan Peele’s sly storytelling — a sneak attack of conscience wrapped in a horror film — just plain works, and not because it’s a “black” story.

For the record I would like to say that Paul Thomas Anderson — a white male — is a genius and his gorgeous, trance-making film “Phantom Thread” a gift to world culture, for the ages. In addition, I would like to say that Guillermo del Toro — either a white male or a Mexican-Canadian, depending on your filter — is a poet and in “The Shape of Water” has given us a fable to dream about for decades to come.

But on with the real focus: Are you wearing black? Will you let Seacrest ask a question?

The movies took a back seat to social politics and morality. And the words Hollywood and morality don’t go together very well.

As a fan of what movies contribute to our quest to be human, it’s a shame to let the skin-deep politics of race or gender overwhelm what we celebrate at the Oscars.

Hollywood has deep, serious work to do in changing — but that work must be done at the level of its power structure. Women and people of color need to take their place at the levers of decision-making. We in the media err when we make it all about gotcha moments on the red carpet.

The change in Hollywood needs to happen where it matters, and the Oscars are not that place.

Related stories from TheWrap:

No-Win Oscars: Will Hollywood Scandals Upstage a Great Best Picture Race?

All the Oscar-Nominated Movies You Can Watch at Home Right Now

Oscars Party Report: Brad Pitt, J.J. Abrams and Allison Janney as a Winner in Waiting (Photos)

The Last 15 Oscar Hosts Ranked From Worst to Best (Photos)

Oscars 2018: Our Predictions in All 24 Categories (Photos)

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The Opportunity In Being A Woman (Part 2) Sun, 04 Mar 2018 07:06:37 +0000 Sharon Waxman Being a woman is an extraordinary gift. 

We are creators, dream-weavers, and community builders. 

We embody joy, courage, compassion, strength, and love. 

In spite of possessing these powerful qualities, many women struggle with the feeling of not being enough. We struggle with internal questions: are we enough for our companies, our families, our partners, our colleagues, our society, and even ourselves? We’ve been told from a young age to be careful about what we say, how we look, and to tread lightly into male-dominated spaces.

Well…#TimesUp. It’s 2018 and women are more fierce, focused and ready for action than ever.

Sheryl Sandberg famously asked us to “lean in” on our greatest fears, dreams, and desires to become better leaders.

And you can do that at the BE Conference on March 11 & 12 in Austin during SXSW.

BE is a place to find your mentors, your sisters, your tribe. It’s a space where sharing the challenges you face creates room for expansion.

More than 200 women and 40 mentors have signed up to be part of what promises to be a unique experience of sharing and mentoring in Austin. They include remarkable leaders like journalist Katie Couric, NASA astrophysicist Andrea Razzaghi, Billionaire entrepreneur Cindy Whitehead, New York Public Advocate Letitia James.

I invite you to join them. Step into the VIP experience at BE and get:

  • Reserved front-row seating during invite-only Power Women Breakfast Austin on Sunday, March 11, 2018 and throughout all BE sessions
  • Invitation to the VIP Dinner and Executive Networking on Sunday evening  (Seating is limited.)
  • beGlammed Makeover and Portrait Photo Package

The connections you make at BE will become your community to lean in and to lean on when you don’t feel like you are enough. At BE Conference you will hone the tools you need to be strong.

I can’t wait to hear about all the life-long connections and career path growth that will be made during this unforgettable event and to be part of a movement that is shaping how women show up in the world. Join us.

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A Special Message on Mentorship (Part 1) Sun, 04 Mar 2018 06:53:50 +0000 Sharon Waxman “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” –Madeleine Albright

The Future is Female
The Women’s March
and now….the BE Conference for the next generation of empowered women, who are game-changers in their prospective industries.

I’m constantly in awe of the all of women I’ve met in my life. They are CEOs, politicians, producers, activists, scientists and entrepreneurs and much more. But first and foremost, they are just like you. They all started young and ambitious, looking for ways to make a difference and get ahead in a male-dominated society.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the mentors who graciously imparted their wisdom, guided me with tough love and gave me a shot. Helping others take the next steps in their career is the most meaningful move I can make right now beyond the journalism we do every day at TheWrap.

Among women striving to succeed, mentorship feels more potent when it comes from another woman who has been there.

The Women’s Movement is powered by those who uplift each other and who understand that as a collective team, we are a force for good and uplifting everyone.

That’s why I started BE conference. To create a space for like-minded women who want to connect, mentor, be mentored and collaborate with one another. It’s become my passion to give back to the next generation of young professional women. My vision is to see all the attendees of the BE Conference, no matter your industry or skill set, meet with powerful and accessible role models you need to get to the next step and absorb the inspiration to dream big. I’ve gathered my executive level friends and colleagues to raise up the next generation of empowered women for 2 days of empowerment among 300+ women.

And this is just the start.

At BE, we’ll be hosting fireside chats, remarkable keynotes, breakout sessions, networking and mentorship sessions, and  many other ways for our attendees to get inspired and connect.

“BE” is about being the best possible version of yourself. When you are surrounded by others who see your vision and believe in you, this comes effortlessly. We are looking forward to learning more about each and every one of you and finding ways to make your dreams a reality. 

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Weinstein Co Rejects Sale, Says It Will File for Bankruptcy Mon, 26 Feb 2018 04:21:54 +0000 Sharon Waxman The Weinstein Company board members said Sunday night they were dropping a sale process and instead pursuing bankruptcy, blaming the decision on bad faith by prospective buyers Maria Contreras-Sweet and Ron Burkle.

“As has been publicly reported, The Weinstein Company has been engaged in an active sale process in the hopes of preserving assets and jobs,” the board said in a statement.

“Today, those discussions concluded without a signed agreement, as reflected in the attached letter. While we recognize that this is an extremely unfortunate outcome for our employees, our creditors and any victims, the Board has no choice but to pursue its only viable option to maximize the Company’s remaining value: an orderly bankruptcy process.  Over the coming days, the Company will prepare its bankruptcy filing with the goal of achieving maximum value in court.”

The letter attached to the statement, addressed to bidders Contreras-Sweet and Burkle, accused them of failing to provide “interim funding” that had been promised last week.

“Your plan to buy this company was illusory,” it said.

The board also seemed put out by what they said was an attempt to revive the role of COO David Glasser, who the board recently fired.

“You added all new contingencies relating to David Glasser, the former employee of The Weinstein Company who was recently terminated for cause,” the board complained in its letter, saying that the financial plan submitted “will fail.”

Contreras-Sweet, who was backed by Burkle in her bid for the company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The once-powerful independent film company was expected to sell for a $500 million purchase price, divided between assumption of debt and including about $250 million in cash. The deal has teetered on the brink of collapse since New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a civil-rights lawsuit against the company this month, seeking to block the sale.

Last week, the bidders and Schneiderman met to figure out a path forward. The move by the board means that any number of prospective buyers might bid for the company’s library as well as completed film and TV projects, including Benedict Cumberbatch’s “The Current War.”

Here is the full letter to Contreras-Sweet and Burkle:

Ron, Maria,

In a meeting with New York’s Attorney General on February 21, you asked The Weinstein Company to work with you as “partners” toward the common goal of saving the Company, preserving jobs and establishing a victims’ fund. Given the Company’s financial condition, you urged that “time is of the essence” and represented that you were prepared to enter an agreement promptly. That agreement, we were told, could no longer impose any closing obligation or reverse break-up fee; instead, Maria assured us that the Company could – and must – rely on buyer’s good-faith intention to sign and close the deal. We mutually agreed that parties should have open and free communication with the Attorney General’s office, and any other governmental body with an interest in the transaction.

In the four days since that meeting, we and our advisors have worked tirelessly to finalize an agreement to present to the Attorney General for his approval. While acceding to virtually every demand you imposed, we made clear that the one thing the Company needed in furtherance of your good faith was interim funding to run our business and maintain our employees – employees who have remained dedicated to the Company even amidst great uncertainty. During this time, we waited patiently for you to deliver the terms you represented would save this Company from certain bankruptcy.

Instead, late last night, you returned to us an incomplete document that unfortunately does not keep your promises of February 21, including with respect to the guiding principles set forth by the Attorney General. Nowhere, for instance, is there any provision for the “gold standard” human resources policies you promised; instead, you added all new contingencies relating to David Glasser, the former employee of The Weinstein Company who was recently terminated for cause. Likewise, there is no provision for necessary interim funding to ensure your future employees were paid; instead, you increased the liabilities left behind for the Company, charting a financial path that will fail. Other new conditions make clear that a closing, if one were to happen at all, could take many months (or longer). In short, the draft you returned presents no viable option for a sale.

We have believed in this Company and in the goals set forth by the Attorney General. Based on the events of the past week, however, we must conclude that your plan to buy this company was illusory and would only leave this Company hobbling toward its demise to the detriment of all constituents. This Board will not let that happen. Despite your previous statements, it is simply impossible to avoid the conclusion that you have no intention to sign an agreement – much less to close one – and no desire to save valuable assets and jobs. That is regrettable, but not in our power to change.

While we deeply regret that your actions have led to this unfortunate outcome for our employees, our creditors and any victims, we will now pursue the Board’s only viable option to maximize the Company’s remaining value: an orderly bankruptcy process.

The Board of Representatives of The Weinstein Company

Related stories from TheWrap:

David Mamet Tackles Harvey Weinstein and 'Ungovernable Genie of Sexuality' in New Play

Harvey Weinstein Apologizes to Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep for Using Their Statements

Jennifer Lawrence Rips 'Predator' Harvey Weinstein, Says She 'Was Not Victimized Personally'

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Inside the STX Mess and the End of Sophie Watts’ Odd Couple Executive Pairing (Exclusive) Thu, 01 Feb 2018 01:17:16 +0000 Sharon Waxman STX Entertainment, one of the few independent movie companies to launch in recent years, started with an unusual partnership between a blue-blood finance executive and a charismatic business ingénue from the British music scene, neither of whom had deep roots in Hollywood’s tricky landscape.

One of those partners, president Sophie Watts, suddenly exited this month amid a cloud of accusations that, according to multiple STX insiders, her CEO Robert Simonds was “obsessed” with his subordinate, attempted to control her movements and that the company failed to respond to her numerous complaints about his behavior.

No new president has been named to replace her, and Watts — who was billed as an STX co-founder in a company bio from 2016 — has been erased from the STX website and even on Wikipedia.

It’s a sudden and mysterious turn of events for a company that prided itself on seeking to shake up the way Hollywood does business.

After declining to respond to TheWrap despite numerous requests, STX issued this statement on Wednesday:

“We direct you — once again — to the joint STX-Sophie Watts press release issued on January 16, 2018 and Sophie’s internal personal memo to employees.”

The statement, which can be found below in full, did not address the specific question of Simonds’  relationship with Watts but it did stress that STX  regularly reviews and updates “our internal policies and procedures to protect and nurture our people.”

A spokesman declined to say whether any internal measures had been taken in response to the reports of harassment, and again referred reporters to the company’s written policy.

Unusual Origins

Many things about the origins of STX are unusual: its investment from China and private equity fund TPG with a promise to spend $1 billion a year on content, its reliance on a network of close friends from Yale University, its ability to hire veteran Hollywood executives including former Universal chief Adam Fogelson, former Disney marketing head Oren Aviv and many others.

But nothing was more unusual than Simonds teaming up with the then-26-year-old Watts in 2012 to lead an entertainment company when her only experience was as a financier or executive producer on two 2011 documentaries, “Bully” and “Sarah Palin: You Betcha.”

From the start, many even inside STX remarked on the odd pairing. Simonds was a strait-laced, married, wealthy, middle-aged man with a finance background, taking as his partner a loud and proud lesbian 25 years his junior, whose friends were the likes of singer Ariana Grande and hipster DJ Samantha Ronson.

Watts had short, bleached blond hair, a British boarding school accent and an unmistakable personal style. “She’d wear the most expensive silk blouse but way too low cut, without a bra,” said one former employee. “She’s got that fashion model thing.”

Simonds, scion of a wealthy family from Arizona, had been a producer on broad comedies like Adam Sandler’s “Big Daddy” and “The Water Boy,” and Steve Martin’s family movie “Cheaper by the Dozen.”  (On the STX website he is billed as an “accomplished businessman.”)

His closest friends at Yale, Bill McGlashan and now-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, were also at the intersection of finance and entertainment. Watts came to Hollywood by way of London and the music business.

Her mother, Tessa, was an early member of Richard Branson’s team at Virgin Records and became a respected executive who helped to create legendary music videos like “Sledgehammer,” and to launch MTV in Europe. She died of cancer just months after STX was founded in March 2014.

Both McGlashan and Simonds found Watts unusually riveting as she spun a vision of creating a digital-age entertainment company making mid-budget movies at a time when Hollywood studios largely did not, the insider said. While Watts grew up in the fast lane of British pop music, that did not necessarily give her credibility in Hollywood. A longtime associate of Simonds’ said that his long-held “dream” was to run a studio making mid-budget movies with established stars, and that the concept for STX did not originate with Watts.

Regardless, Simonds was not deterred. He made Watts president and introduced her in public as a co-founder.

“She was focused and smart and could move him [Simonds] forward,” said another former employee. “She brought something to the table he didn’t have — a big personality and luster. Without her — we used to talk about it — [STX] was a bunch of old men. She was the only one who made it look forward-thinking.”

Still, optically the pairing was jarring to many, especially as the two were inseparable as co-executives — he the CEO, she the president — who shared an office and went everywhere together in style, including on private planes to China, where STX’s leading investors Tencent and Hony Capital were based.

In meetings, Simonds praised his young charge as an agent of change and a visionary executive to a point that made employees uncomfortable – particularly given her lack of experience.

“It became an unhealthy obsession of his,” said one of the former employees, using a term echoed by multiple people interviewed for this story. “It was common knowledge. “They had some kind of friendship that was peculiar to everybody, because it made no sense why she was being anointed the way she was.”

From left: Mila Kunis, Bob Simonds, Annie Mumolo, Kathryn Hahn and Sophie Watts attend the New York premiere of “Bad Moms” in 2016. (Photo: Getty Images)

Relationship Sours

Even as STX was rolling out its first theatrical releases, insiders say that Simonds and Watts maintained at best an arms-length role in the moviemaking process. (Watts didn’t present the studio’s slate at 2016’s high-profile CinemaCon presentation, but she did shmooze with “The Free State of Jones” star Matthew McConaughey at Mr. Chow atop the Caesar’s Palace afterward.)

“She was everybody’s boss. Technically we all reported to her. But we never talked to her. We didn’t intersect with her,” said one of the former employees. Movies were acquired and put into development, while Watts focused on other projects, such as tapping friends in the gay music community to start a short-lived digital platform.

Watts eventually hired former Yahoo marketing chief Kathy Savitt to run digital, thought she exited after just eight months, in May 2016.

Despite flops like “Free State of Jones,” the company scored its first big hit in summer 2016 with the comedy “Bad Moms” — which grossed $184 million worldwide on a modest $20 million budget — and also secured strategic investments from the Chinese technology giant Tencent and Hong Kong-based telecommunications firm PCCW.

In addition to its original capitalization, the company had access to about $700 million in new capital for a planned expansion and was worth roughly $1.5 billion.

But in the office, three former employees reported seeing heated exchanges between the two top executives. The relationship between Watts and Simonds began to visibly fray. Two insiders said that Watts was pushing back on Simonds’ unwelcome interest in her – such as asking to move to a separate office – and reported her displeasure to General Counsel Noah Fogelson, begging for protection.

“They’d be alternately lovey-dovey and hysterically angry at each other,” said one of the former employees. “It was a common sight to see Sophie in Noah Fogelson’s office broken apart in tears.”

Said another former employee: “I saw them fight a lot. I saw them clash.”

Said a third insider: “Watts called Noah Fogelson asking for help for years. We have glass walls and offices…. We heard her calls and their arguments and helped her when we could.”

On Wednesday, TheWrap received the following statement from STX regarding this report, and its initial report on Jan. 16:

We [STX] direct you–once again–to the joint STX-Sophie Watts press release issued on January 16, 2018 and Sophie’s internal personal memo to employees. Both of these communications clearly demonstrate STX’s gratitude to Sophie for her contributions to the company’s success and, in Sophie’s own words, her pride at building up STX and the reasons for her decision to leave the company. Unfortunately, the Wrap chose to disregard this unequivocal, on the record, joint statement in favor of its uncorroborated and contrary thesis, relying on unnamed sources.

STX is proud to have built a safe working environment that encourages employees to share their concerns. We have consistently taken all reports seriously regardless of the source, and we regularly review and update our internal policies and procedures to protect and nurture our people.

STX sent a statement announcing Watts’ departure 20 minutes after TheWrap published the initial report — and nearly 24 hours after it was contacted for comment.

As TheWrap previously reported, Watts complained repeatedly about the unwanted attention, and Simonds’ wife suspected a sexual relationship, calling the office to complain that the two were engaging in oral sex, according to two knowledgeable individuals.

In September 2016, an outside attorney was brought in who recommended that a bodyguard be present when the two were alone in the office, and that they not fly to Asia together without others present, one of the insiders said. STX attorney Bert Deixler said: “There was no bodyguard, there was no recommendation. That’s not true.”

By the fall of 2017, the conflict became more than Watts could handle. She ceased coming to the office, and in January her exit was attributed to her desire to start a new venture. When TheWrap reached Watts for the original report she merely stated, “I can’t comment on any of this.” Since then her cellphone has been out of service.

The Future of STX

Even as Watts was withdrawing from STX, the company was moving forward on with its many media divisions, to varying degrees of success.

Last November’s “Bad Moms Christmas” grossed only $72 million domestically, and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” — which STX distributed for EuropaCorp — was a costly flop. The studio has multiple movies on deck for 2018, including “Gringo” starring David Oyelowo in March and “Adrift’ starring Shailene Woodley and Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty,” both in June.

The company’s TV division has been mostly quiet, producing Katherine Heigl’s short-lived NBC “State of Affairs” and lining up a few cable projects, including Matthew Carnahan’s ’90s tech-boom drama “Valley of the Boom” at NatGeo.

Also showing little traction are the company’s digital and VR ventures, including the VT company Surreal it acquired in 2016 on the strength of interactive content for YouTube stars and live events like the 2016 Emmy Awards. According to two individuals familiar with the operation, it’s mostly thought of as a value add for big-name talent looking to diversify the platforms on which fans receive them. (The division took meetings with Mark Wahlberg to entice him to sign on for the STX thriller “Mile 22,” one insider recalled.)

Despite the spotty track record, John Malone’s Liberty Global invested an undisclosed amount of money last November and placed an executive on STX’s board. And recent reports have suggested that STX may be close to an initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock exchange.

How the departure of Sophie Watts may bear on all this remains to be seen, and the company’s reticence to shed light on the situation, along with her excision from its history, leaves more questions than answers.

“I think she believed that [with] a married straight guy, she could use his affections to get what she wanted,” said one of the former employees of Watts’ relationship with Simonds. “And at a certain point probably, whatever temptations she led him into, I’m sure it got out of control.”

Matt Donnelly contributed to this report.

Related stories from TheWrap:

STX President Sophie Watts Exits Over CEO Robert Simonds' Alleged Harassment (Exclusive)

STX Gets Investment From John Malone's Telecom Giant Liberty Global

'Bad Moms' Studio STX Plans 2018 IPO on Hong Kong Stock Exchange

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Katie Couric, Baroness von Sketch Comedians to Headline Power Women, BE Conference at SXSW 2018! Thu, 25 Jan 2018 19:23:35 +0000 Sharon Waxman Award-winning journalist Katie Couric and the founders of IFC’s Baroness von Sketch Show will be featured in keynote conversations at TheWrap’s Power Women event and BE Conference for mentoring millennials at SXSW in March 2018 .

Aurora Browne, Jennifer Whalen, and Meredith MacNeill, three of the co-creators and executive producers of the Baroness von Sketch troupe will be featured speakers at BE Conference, while Couric will be interviewed at Power Women by Wrap editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman. The Power Women Breakfast will kick off two days of events that include the BE Conference for millennial women presented by TheWrap during SXSW on March 11-12.

TheWrap is proud to be an officially affiliated event at SXSW for the first time this year.

Other speakers include New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, Actress Sasha Alexander, activists and Harvey Weinstein accusers Sarah Ann Masse and Jessica Barth, Pussyhat movement cofounder Jayna Zweiman and many others. Check the full list of  mentors and speakers at

Couric is a celebrated journalist, Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) co-founder, and New York Times best-selling author. SU2C has raised over $500 million to fund scientific research teams. She launched her production company, Katie Couric Media in 2015 and is involved in a number of scripted and unscripted projects. Her eponymous podcast on Stitcher, features conversations with names in politics, media and popular culture. Couric’s documentaries include: “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric,” for National Geographic; “Under the Gun,” which aired on EPIX; and “Fed Up,” available on Netflix. Couric’s upcoming six-part National Geographic series, “America Inside Out with Katie Couric,” premieres on April 11.

Fast-paced and irreverent, IFC’s Baroness von Sketch Show and its all-female cast draws upon 15 years of comedy experience and multiple collaborations to present an insightful, emotionally grounded series that captures the banalities and humor that comes from just trying to get along in the world.

The show is created, written by, and stars Meredith MacNeill and Second City alumni Carolyn Taylor, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen, who also all serve as executive producers alongside Jamie Brown. Browne and Whalen will share their inspiring story of how they’ve broken through the comedy glass ceiling and gone on to great success.

The BE Conference is a premier conference that connects change makers seeking to make an impact with game changers at the top of their fields who want to inspire and mentor the next generation of leaders. The audience consists of 350 millennials, including entrepreneurs, influencers and rising stars in their respective worlds, along with 50 mentors who are eager to teach and learn from each other.

Launched in 2017 by TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, BE Conference offers keynote interviews, panel discussions, workshops, networking and mentoring sessions that build meaningful connections, encourage constructive change, and empower the next generation to BE the best possible version of themselves.

VIP tickets can be purchased for BE Conference 2018 and include exclusive access to mentors and entrance to Power Women Breakfast SXSW in Austin. More information on attending, sponsoring or mentoring at BE is available at

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TheWrap Presents Live Interviews, Photos at the Acura Studio At Sundance 2018 Fri, 19 Jan 2018 16:24:53 +0000 Wrap Staff

For Immediate Release

PARK CITY, Utah–January 19,2018–The Wrap is pleased to announce its annual live interview studio during the Sundance Film Festival 2018 welcoming top talent including Octavia Spencer, Peter Dinklage, Claire Danes, Idris Elba and many others for four days of news-making conversations about independent film.

The space will be headquartered at the Acura Studio located in Park City where the 10-day festival takes place. TheWrap’s editorial team will conduct four days of video interviews and photography with the leading actors and directors appearing in competition at the festival.

They include:

Octavia Spencer (A Kid Like Jake), Keira Knightley (Colette), Elle Fanning (I Think We’re Alone Now), Nick Offerman (Hearts Beat Loud), Aubrey Plaza (An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn), Jim Parsons (A Kid Like Jake), Claire Danes (A Kid Like Jake) John Cho (Search), Debra Messing (Search), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Kindergarten Teacher) Ethan Hawke ( Blaze), and Jon Hamm (Beirut). They will be interviewed by TheWrap’s deeply knowledgeable editorial team including editors Sharon Waxman and Steve Pond, and reporters Matt Donnelly and Beatrice Verhoeven.

In addition, TheWrap is pleased to partner with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) for a panel discussion about ‘How to Get Your Film Out There- The Digital Experts Weigh In’ hosted by Youtube.

Leading industry figures including Angela Courtin, Head of Marketing at Youtube TV & Originals; Aneesh Chaganty, director of “Search;” Youtuber, Anna Akana and Grace Royer, Agent, UTA Independent Film Group and Joe Pichirallo, chair of the Undergraduate Film & Television program in the Tisch School of the Arts Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University.  The panel will take place on Saturday January 20th, 2018 from 3-4:30 p at the Claimjumper located at 573 Main Street. The event is open to Sundance badge holders and invited guests.

TheWrap will also be hosting its annual Influencer Dinner in partnership with Cinedigm, bringing together thought leaders for a robust conversation about the future of independent film.


The Wrap News Inc. is the leading digital news organization covering the business of entertainment and media.  Founded by award-winning journalist Sharon Waxman in 2009, The Wrap News Inc. is comprised of the award-winning, industry-leading website with its high-profile newsbreaks, investigative stories and authoritative analysis; it also includes premium, magazines with stunning original photography and editorial, distributed to entertainment industry professionals; Wrap Events, a series of high profile gatherings of thought leaders including the Power Women breakfast series, Awards & Foreign screening series, Emmy Screening Series,  TheGrill, an executive leadership conference centered on the convergence of entertainment, media and technology and most recently added BE women’s conference.

Acura is a leading automotive luxury nameplate that delivers Precision Crafted Performance, representing the original values of the Acura brand – a commitment to evocative styling, high performance and innovative engineering, all built on a foundation of quality and reliability

The Acura lineup features six distinctive models – the RLX premium, luxury sedan, the TLX performance luxury sedan, the ILX sport sedan, the 5-passenger RDX luxury crossover SUV, the seven-passenger Acura MDX, America’s all-time best-selling three-row luxury SUV and the next-generation, electrified NSX supercar as a new and pinnacle expression of Acura Precision Crafted Performance.


For press studio inquiries contact:

Kathy Selim

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STX President Sophie Watts Exits Over CEO Robert Simonds’ Alleged Harassment (Exclusive) Tue, 16 Jan 2018 22:29:46 +0000 Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman STX Entertainment President Sophie Watts is leaving her role at the entertainment company after complaining of harassment by her boss CEO Robert Simonds, according to two individuals with knowledge of the situation.

Watts has been absent from STX since at least December. She resigned officially on Tuesday.

Reached for comment, Watts said, “I can’t comment on any of this.”

TheWrap attempted to reach Simonds by email and phone, with no reply. Company spokeswoman Patti Rockenwagner also did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls ahead of publication seeking response.

Update: 30 minutes after the publication of this story, STX sent a press release announcing Watts’ departure. It said she would “focus on new business opportunities.”

Second update: A lawyer for STX contacted TheWrap after publication and called the story “inaccurate in many respects,” but did not address the harrassment allegation directly.

The situation is highly unusual in that Watts, one of the top women executives in Hollywood, is openly gay. Simonds, who is married and heterosexual, is accused by Watts, his subordinate, of systematic harassment.

Simonds’ relationship to Watts, who co-founded the company with him in 2012, was described by the two individuals with knowledge of the situation as “obsessive.”

From left: Producer Suzanne Todd, Sophie Watts, Susan Sarandon

“It became an unhealthy obsession of his,” said one former employee. “It was common knowledge. They had some kind of friendship that was peculiar to everybody, because it made no sense why she was being anointed the way she was. He refused to let her have her own office. They had two desks facing each other. They traveled everywhere together…  [In meetings] he complimented her every second — and inappropriately so — even if she hadn’t said a word or wasn’t there.”

Both individuals with knowledge of the relationship said that Simonds insisted that Watts keep her desk in his office. When she asked to move, no other space was made available except on another floor, where she was cut off from meetings and the information flow until she moved back to Simonds’ space, one of the individuals said.

The STX lawyer Bert Deixler said: “It is true that she regularly worked at a desk in Mr. Simonds’ office, but she had her own office.”

Watts complained repeatedly about the unwanted attention, according to both individuals. In September 2016, an outside attorney was brought in who recommended that a bodyguard be present when the two were alone in the office, and that they not fly to Asia together without others present, one of the insiders said. Deixler said: “There was no bodyguard, there was no recommendation. That’s not true.”

Neither recommendation was followed, the insider said, and Watts again found herself alone on 15-hour private flights to China with Simonds.

The two individuals also said that Simonds’ wife, Anne, believed the CEO and Watts were having sex. “Bob’s wife would call and scream, ‘Get Bob on the phone, or is he with Sophie?” She then asked if the two were having oral sex in the office,  the former employee said. The second individual cited the same comment by Simonds’ wife.

Neither insider said they knew of a sexual relationship between Simonds and Watts.

STX was founded by Simonds, Watts and Bill McGlashan of TPG Growth in 2012.

The fledgling company landed the Chinese film company Huayi Brothers as a co-production and slate-financing partner, raising $1 billion to spend on acquisition titles and mid-budget original films in an industry increasingly reliant on tentpole films.

STX Chairman and CEO Bob Simonds

In media appearances, the untested Watts was touted as a sharp young visionary paired with Simonds, an experienced finance professional. In early meetings, Simonds boasted about his young charge  — and he showed off their shared office to demonstrate the progressive company culture.

Said a third person, a former STX employee with knowledge of their dynamic: “They were super close. They relied on each other in a business sense. The psychological thing was — Sophie came in without a lot of experience. Bob would listen to her opinion. And people would think: ‘What does she have on him? Why would he listen to her above people who have experience in this field?'”

The studio struggled initially, with pricey flops like Matthew McConaughey’s “Free State of Jones” and the $60 million tween sci-fi film “The Space Between Us,” which grossed only $8 million in the U.S. The studio’s lone  true hit was the 2016 Mila Kunis-Kristen Bell comedy “Bad Moms,” which took over $180 million worldwide on a $20 million budget.

STX has seen a series of high-profile executives depart, including president of production Cathy Schulman and president of marketing Jack Pan. Before him, president of digital Kathy Savitt remained in the position for less than a year. Chief content officer Oren Aviv was demoted to a producer on the family franchise “Ugly Dolls.”

One of the two people who said Watts felt harassed by Simonds spoke to Watts in October at a women’s leadership event, and said she was distraught.

“She said it was horrible and she had to leave,” the individual said. “She said, ‘I can’t have a life without him. He ruins every relationship I have.'”

But the final straw appears to have occurred at Variety’s Power of Women event on Oct. 13. One witness said Watts showed up and was seated next to Simonds, although men do not typically attend the event. Watts looked pained and left abruptly, the witness said. STX’s attorney Deixler said: “She left to go to a business meeting in the ordinary course of events. She didn’t leave abruptly.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

STX Gets Investment From John Malone's Telecom Giant Liberty Global

'Bad Moms' Studio STX Plans 2018 IPO on Hong Kong Stock Exchange

STX Films Names Mike Viane Head of Theatrical Sales

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Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor Close to Investment by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince (Exclusive) Tue, 16 Jan 2018 02:15:21 +0000 Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman WME’s parent company, Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor, is poised to get a significant investment from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman, an individual familiar with the discussions told TheWrap on Monday.

Bin Salman has been seeking to open up Saudi Arabia to new forms of industry as oil is increasingly regarded as a diminishing asset over time in an energy-conscious world.

The investment would represent a minority share in the company, which comprises the WME talent agency, the sports franchise Ultimate Fighting Championship and the fashion and live events megaproducer IMG.

The crown prince has drawn international scrutiny to the oil-rich kingdom for a harsh crackdown on corruption, involving mass arrests of 200 relatives in an “anti-corruption” sweep.

The individual with knowledge said that Endeavor CEO Emanuel visited Saudi Arabia twice in 2017 to discuss the prospect. He was there in the spring and again near the end of the year, including for a conference in Riyadh. The investment would come through the kingdom’s public investment fund. The investment is expected to close in the next two weeks. Some Hollywood insiders speculated that Emanuel was actually seeking an outright sale of Endeavor, but a knowledgeable individual said that categorically was untrue.

Endeavor is expected to go public at some point, having acquired IMG for $2.3 billion in 2013, and UFC for $4 billion in 2016. The company got a $1 billion cash infusion in August 2017 from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Government of Singapore Investment Fund.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Graham Taylor, Chris Rice Named Co-Presidents of WME and IMG's New Division Endeavor Content

WME-IMG Owner Renames Parent Company Endeavor

Legendary Hires Former Endeavor Agent Greg Siegel to Develop Digital Series

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Viacom and CBS Are Seeking to Merge, Insiders Say (Exclusive) Fri, 12 Jan 2018 20:43:03 +0000 Sharon Waxman and Matt Donnelly Viacom and CBS vice-chairwoman Shari Redstone is pursuing a merger of the two media companies that split more than a decade ago, according to multiple insiders who spoke to TheWrap.

With the Hollywood landscape quickly shifting, Redstone, president of the privately-held National Amusements that controls both media companies, has concluded that a bigger footprint is necessary for the companies to thrive. CBS’ core business is broadcast television along with multiple digital properties, while Viacom holds cable channels like Nickelodeon and Comedy Central along with the Paramount movie studio.

A time frame for any potential merger is unclear, but three individuals with knowledge of the companies said that Redstone is actively moving in that direction, which represented another shift in her back-and-forth mindset on the matter.

Viacom and National Amusements declined to comment, and CBS had no immediate response to a request for comment.

CBS chairman Les Moonves, who has long resisted talk of recombining the companies, is now open to the possibility, the insiders said. He would be the most likely person to run the merged companies, though Redstone is considering other candidates, according to two insiders.

An individual close to Moonves acknowledged the process to TheWrap: “He’s having active discussions with Shari and the board on a wide variety of issues all the time, including this one. And those discussions continue with regard to looking to merge the two companies.”

One insider told TheWrap that Redstone was looking at other candidates because Moonves was demanding an ownership stake and she thought his demands were too rich. The individual close to Moonves disputed this, saying: “At no time has he asked for an ownership position.”

The move to merge the companies represents another reversal for Redstone, who directly appealed to CBS and Viacom to merge in September 2016, then retreated from this in the following months, presumably because of Moonves’ opposition.

In a letter in September 2016 to both boards from her parent company National Amusements, she touted the potential of “substantial synergies” that a merger would bring. She called on the boards to “respond even more aggressively and effectively” to combat the challenges they both faced.

Redstone later reconsidered after ousting Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and replacing him with Bob Bakish — whom she installed after successfully wresting control of Viacom in a bruising boardroom and legal battle over succession plans involving her father, Sumner Resdstone.

“We talked about it, and what became apparent to me very quickly was that our assets were severely undervalued, which I had understood, but what I didn’t understand at the time was the significant upside that existed in our businesses once we had a good management team in place and the culture came back,” Redstone said at last May’s re/code conference.

The new merger talk comes amid a new period of consolidation in the entertainment and media industry. In December, Disney announced plans for a $52.4 billion acquisition of the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s movie and TV assets, while telecom giant AT&T is attempting to complete the $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner announced more than a year ago.

Meanwhile, the rise of streaming giant Netflix — whose $83 billion market cap far exceeds both Viacom and CBS combined — as well as the ambitious moves by tech giants like Amazon and Apple into the entertainment content space have set off a period of strategic change in the sector.

The market cap of Viacom is $12.7 billion, while the market cap of CBS is $23.2 billion.

In February 2016, the then 92-year-old Redstone stepped down as chairman of both Viacom and CBS amid questions about his age and mental competency. Moonves assumed the chairman title at CBS, while Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman was ousted and ultimately replaced by Robert Bakish.

Viacom and CBS had merged into a single company in 1999, which Sumner Redstone split in 2005 in an attempt to maximize shareholder value.

The Redstones control both the CBS and Viacom through their supervoting shares held by National Amusements.

As of December 2016, National Amusements, directly and through subsidiaries, holds approximately 79.8 percent of the Class A (voting) common stock of Viacom Inc., constituting 10 percent of the overall equity of the Company, and holds approximately 79.5 percent of the Class A (voting) common stock and 2.4 percent of the Class B (non‐voting) common stock of CBS Corporation, constituting 9.1 percent of the overall equity of the Company.

Related stories from TheWrap:

John Dickerson to Replace Charlie Rose on 'CBS This Morning'

CBS Diversity Showcase Cleans House, Second Co-Head Also Exits Program

CBS Network, Syndication Group Begin Buyouts and Layoffs (Exclusive)

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Inside the Warner Bros Shakeup and What It Means for AT&T Merger Wed, 10 Jan 2018 02:50:46 +0000 Sharon Waxman The shakeup at Warner Bros. on Tuesday seems aimed at making the studio nimble enough to deal with the uncertainty in its immediate future: corporate merger, standalone sale or none of the above.

But, for the record, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara went out of his way to deny that this was the case.

“It has zero to do with AT&T,” he told TheWrap in an interview after the restructuring was announced. “It has nothing to do with the contemplation of the merger happening or not happening — it’s what we thought was in the best interest of Warner Bros. short-term and long term.”

What is indisputable is that a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the studio because of the lawsuit by the Department of Justice against AT&T’s $85 billion bid to buy Warner Bros. parent company Time Warner. This necessarily means the studio has to prepare for conflicting eventualities in the near future.

An individual close to the company told TheWrap that there is no internal clarity over whether the merger will happen or not. But if the merger fails, this executive said, Time Warner is expected to be broken up into parts and sold separately as Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.

Another individual told TheWrap that the fact AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson recently went out of his way to praise President Trump’s tax bill, citing the creation of thousands of jobs for his company, was significant. This knowledgeable observer suggested that Stephenson’s statements were an olive branch intended to facilitate a settlement with the Department of Justice.

No one involved in the deal seems to believe that divesting CNN is in the cards. An AT&T spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the matter.

Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara’s own future is unknown, and he has two more years on his contract. He placed the studio under the clear leadership of Toby Emmerich, who made his reputation at Warner’s New Line Cinema division where he found low-budget cultural hits like the Stephen King adaptation “It.”

By transitioning studio marketing-distribution veteran Sue Kroll to a producing deal — she was in the running for the top job as well — he removes the possibility of political gamesmanship among his senior team.

The new executive configuration may well reflect the most streamlined version of the film studio to make it attractive to potential buyers. There was a sense that a previous triumvirate structure involving Emmerich, Kroll and former production president Greg Silverman left too much uncertainty about who was leading the studio.

With increased autonomy, Emmerich will be expected to stabilize the studio’s DC Films unit. It’s a content shop responsible for at least six superhero tentpoles in active phases of development, production and postproduction, including Jason Momoa and Nicole Kidman’s “Aquaman,” due this December, and a planned 2019 sequel to Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman.”

It will take time for Emmerich to fully realize his increased influence and marching orders for the studio’s slate, but Tsujihara is sure of at least one thing — his company cannot and does not want to be Disney.

“Warner Bros. needs to continue doing what it’s always done: producing the biggest, most diverse slate in the business. That’s what’s made us successful. We can’t do what Disney’s done,” he said.

“It’s worked really, really well for them, but it’s not who we are,”  Tsujihara said. “We need to continue to create a balanced slate of all types of movies and all genres.”

Matt Donnelly contributed to this post.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara: 'We Face Headwinds in Every One of Our Businesses'

Warner Bros Leadership Shake-Up: Toby Emmerich to Run Studio, Sue Kroll Steps Down

'Animaniacs': Hulu, Warner Bros. Partner on '90s Cartoon Reboot

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A Wolff in the West Wing – How ‘Fire and Fury’ Was Reported Sat, 06 Jan 2018 20:05:46 +0000 Sharon Waxman I’m still trying to wrap my head around this image: Michael Wolff, middle-aged, bald-headed guy with screaming “I’m a New York media elite” glasses sitting on a crumb-strewn couch in the West Wing hallway, taking notes.

Not one day, not two days, but according to his account, week after week over the first eight months of the Trump administration. Sitting, watching, more than occasionally getting briefed on the soap opera going on around President Chaos. And (did I mention) taking notes?

“Shortly after January 20, I took up a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing,” he writes in the introduction to his book. “Since then I have conducted more than 200 interviews.”

Hmm. No chance somebody — say Kellyanne Conway, or Hope Hicks, or Sean Spicer — buttonholed the guy with the notebook and the vaguely familiar face who was not in the White House press corps and asked, “So, dude, what exactly are you doing here?”

There are a lot of layers to unpeel in the saga of how Wolff’s new — and now notorious — book came to be. The most significant single takeaway of the book is the terrifying conclusion that Trump’s own advisors believe that he is not fit for the presidency. “Semi-literate,” in Wolff’s words, someone who doesn’t read, who makes policy off of Fox television talking points, who blindly believes in his own untested instincts on matters of global importance.

It’s not an utter surprise to learn this, but to hear so many of those on Trump’s team — along with the likes of Rupert Murdoch — confirm this impression while privately calling him a “moron” and “idiot” is certainly sobering. The book opens with Roger Ailes pressing Steve Bannon on whether Trump gets it, and Bannon saying Trump “gets what he gets.” 

We should not lose sight of the importance of this insight and what it brings to the national conversation. It should light a fire under efforts to bring stability and sanity to our highest office, and by the way, it’s an incredibly saddening reality.

But the book is also a microcosmic look at the vicious New York media game displaced to Washington DC and, of all places, The White House. In that world, friends and enemies are all the same thing. Murdoch and Trump are buddies and supplicants, and Trump — even once elected — is still the supplicant, in Wolff’s telling. In this ecosystem, Hillary goes to Trump’s wedding, Trump gives her money for every campaign until he decides to run against her, then calls to lock her up when it’s convenient. That’s the game.

And Michael Wolff — the man who invites Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon to dinner and takes notes for his hit job book after the baba au rhum is finished — is just the man to do it. (Calling Tom Wolfe. Different wolf. Same bonfire of the vanities.)

That is the very Murdoch-Ailes-Trump-Kushner feedback loop that runs through Wolff’s book, in which the players as often dump on one another as vacation on each others’ yachts – an insight that is frightening and nauseating at the same time. (This just in passing caught my eye: Ivanka and Jared were on uber-Democrat David Geffen’s yacht in Croatia when they were called back to serve in the campaign in summer of 2016, the book tells us.)

It’s a world where media careers live on a par with the national interest. From the book: “Trump’s longtime friend Roger Ailes liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future.” That was during the campaign, when Trump was intending to lose.

Except the New York games that risked careers and fortunes now risk national security and millions of citizens. They now have a nuclear button.

The fact that Michael Wolff — not Bob Woodward, not Doris Kearns Goodwin – gets to be the stenographer, er, chronicler of it all tells you everything you need to know about that through-the-looking-glass cultural shift.

With all that, I am riveted by the idea that someone could, on the basis of a loose friendship/acquaintance with the president, get the kind of access and cooperation that Wolff did.

In the book’s introduction and interviews, Wolff assures us that he did not do anything particularly noteworthy to achieve that. He just showed up to the White House.

In an interview on Saturday he said: “I literally think you go in there and say, ‘I’m writing a book,’ and they go, “‘Oh. A book.’ It’s like a cloak of invisibility. And then also they would do this thing that would be like, ‘Oh, this is off the record.’ And I would say, ‘I would like to use it for the book.’ And they would say, ‘Well, when does that come out?’ And I would say, ‘Next year.’ ‘Oh, oh, yeah, OK, fine.'”

Wolff and Trump deserve each other in every way. They are both symptoms and products of the toxic sick ward where the values are money and fame, and hubris and backstabbing are the norm. The crown jewel is a winning headline in Page Six.

In one of his savviest passages in “Fire and Fury,” Wolff points this out:

“Media is personal. It is a series of blood scores. The media in its often collective mind decides who is going to rise and who is going to fall, who lives and dies. If you stay around long enough in the media eye, your fate, like that of a banana republic despot, is often an unkind one — a law Hillary Clinton was not able to circumvent. The media has the last word.”

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Letitia James, Shelley Zalis, Sarah Ann Masse Join BE Conference 2018 as Speakers, Mentors Thu, 04 Jan 2018 20:08:27 +0000 Sharon Waxman Letitia James, the public advocate for the City of New York and a rising star on the Democratic political scene, joins TheWrap’s 2018 BE Conference at SXSW in Austin on March 11-12, 2018 as a featured speaker.

Also joining the stellar line-up of speakers and mentors are:

  • Girls Lounge Founder Shelley Zalis
  • Actress and Harvey Weinstein Accuser Sarah Ann Masse
  • Best-selling Author Karen Walrond
  • Elastic Minds Founder Claudia Carraso

Zalis, Walrond and Carraso are all returning for the second annual conference, which TheWrap launched in 2017 to allow outstanding millennial women to be mentored by leaders in entertainment, science, politics, media and business on how they can push boundaries, innovate and be game changers.

As the Public Advocate for the City of New York, Letitia James is the second highest ranking elected official in the City and the first woman of color to hold a citywide position in New York City history. “Tish” her nickname, is a strong advocate for criminal justice reform and led the push for police body-worn cameras in the NYPD. Throughout her lifelong commitment to public service, she has distinguished herself as an advocate and leader on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Shelley Zalis is CEO, The Female Quotient and Founder, The Girls’ Lounge. She has gone against the grain most of her career, starting in 2000 when she left the corporate world to pioneer online research. Her most recent endeavor includes launching The Female Quotient and Girls’ Lounge which supports and mentors women to find their voice, embrace their feminine leadership powers and work together to transform corporate culture. Shelley is also the host of a new Bloomberg series titled “Walk The Talk” focused on gender equality and the critical importance of women in executive leadership.

Karen Walrond is an author, speaker & photographer. Her bestselling book, “The Beauty of Different,” is a chronicle of imagery & essays on the concept that what makes us different makes us beautiful. She’s the creative mind behind the award-winning website Chookooloonks, an inspirational source for living with intention, creativity & adventure. Her second book, “Make Light,” will be released Spring 2018.

Claudia Carraso is a communications management consultant, creative director, and marketing leader with more than 20 years’ experience in developing major global brand platforms, growing dynamic start-up companies, and advising NGOs on communications policy, issues and challenges. She is currently founder and managing partner of Elastic Minds, LLC, a consulting group based in Los Angeles with presence in San Francisco and New York City.

Actor, Writer, Producer, Comedian, Singer and Activist, Sarah Ann Masse is a hilarious woman on a mission; not only is she continuing the trend of breaking stereotypes and proving that females are funny but doing so as she sites unhealthy social norms and boxes society places women in. In 2017, Sarah Ann joined the #MeToo movement as a survivor of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein and an activist for change.

The BE Conference is a premier conference that connects change makers seeking to make an impact with game changers at the top of their fields who want to inspire and mentor the next generation of leaders. The audience consists of 350 millennials, including entrepreneurs, influencers and rising stars in their respective worlds, along with 50 mentors who are eager to teach and learn from each other.

Launched in 2017 by TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, BE Conference offers keynote interviews, panel discussions, workshops, networking and mentoring sessions that build meaningful connections, encourage constructive change, and empower the next generation to BE the best possible version of themselves.

More information on attending, sponsoring or mentoring at BE is available at

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Hollywood in 2018: The Old Order Ends, a New One Rises Sun, 31 Dec 2017 17:27:40 +0000 Sharon Waxman Three months ago, I wrote that the change that has been years in coming to the entertainment industry was upon us.

“The new world has been a long time coming, but it seems to be here,” I wrote at the opening of TheWrap’s annual Grill conference on October 1. “The outlines of the new entertainment ecosystem are becoming clear… The next 12 months will be decisive in defining the contours of what the content industry looks like for decades to come.”

As we face 2018, those changes are about to come barreling through the established order of Hollywood, leaving companies in pieces, shattering long-accepted norms, scattering talented executives to the winds and anointing a new set of power brokers.

It will be a time of disruption and transition, and I am not referring to Harvey Weinstein (more on that later). Here is what looms on the horizon.

1. The End of the Major Studios

Two major mergers are hanging in the balance — the AT&T acquisition of Time-Warner and Disney’s purchase of Fox’s movie and TV assets. Both signal an end to the major studio system that has reigned for more than 50 years, and a new era of consolidation at the topmost levels of entertainment and media.

The significance of Rupert Murdoch’s decision to sell the precious pieces of his carefully built entertainment empire to Disney’s Bob Iger, rather than bequeath them to his sons Lachlan and James, cannot be overstated.

To some observers, this represents a kind of surrender by one of the most combative and ambitious media titans of our time. To others, it reflects a canny assessment of the media landscape and a bold move to cut the losses of a mammoth operation that lacks the technology prowess to compete over the long term with the new power players.

Up for discussion are whether CBS and Viacom will ultimately re-merge and whether Sony will let its own entertainment assets go. As the new order rises, these changes will matter less.

2. The New Order

We know who the emerging power players are: Facebook, Google, Netflix, Apple, Amazon. For years, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has led a rising challenge to Time-Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. Now Bewkes is set to retire as soon as the AT&T deal closes and Hastings just got a $30 million stock grant to keep his growth going.

In the last three months, Netflix has continued to swell in size, with a market cap now at $83 billion, making it bigger than any media company besides Disney, including Time Warner. Just as important, the streaming service has signed deals with some of the most talented showrunners in Hollywood, Shonda Rhimes and Jenji Kohan, women who are on the cutting edge of where pop culture is going. Netflix also signed a deal with Jerry Seinfeld in the past week — and I hear that guy is pretty good.

The other new tech challengers in the entertainment space will have to play catch up to Netflix, but no one doubts that they have almost limitless means to do so. The only question is: How big are their ambitions?

In 2017, Facebook announced plans to invest $1 billion in new entertainment content and has been busy striking deals across town. Apple has done the same with the same initial 10-figure investment, a figure that everyone seems to believe is a drop in the bucket of what they intend to spend on programming in the future.

In my opinion, though, Amazon is the one to watch. Jeff Bezos has utterly cleaned house at his eight-year-old Amazon Studios division, kicking out studio head Roy Price, comedy chief Joe Lewis and head of alternative Conrad Riggs. (Price resigned shortly after a series of sexual harassment accusations surfaced; the other exits appear to be coincidental.)

With the imminent changes at Fox and Warner Bros., Bezos has a rare opportunity to dip into a deep talent pool to restaff and reboot his content operation. Word on the street is that he has been looking to hire top female executive talent. And thanks to the recent corporate upheavals, there may soon be some heavyweights in play, including Fox TV honcho Dana Walden, Warner Bros. marketing/distribution wiz Sue Kroll, Fox film head Stacey Snider and HBO/Annapurna TV veteran Sue Naegle.

So what does the new power landscape of Hollywood look like when all this shakes out? I believe there will be about six major players dominating the space, led by Comcast, AT&T, Netflix and Disney. I’ll leave blank spots for one more technology titan and one wild card because you just never do know.

Another thing: These so-called  “technology” firms need to be recategorized as media and content companies, since they both distribute and/or create the stuff of popular culture. They also need to shoulder the same responsibilities that the old order did — enforcing standards and practices, serving the community and offering accountability to not just shareholders but to consumers.

3. The Indies

In the world of independent studios, the business models are scary and the future rocky.

Lionsgate has already merged with Starz after completing an earlier merger with Summit (which gave the company the now-dormant “Hunger Games” franchise). It’s unclear if this new move makes that company big enough to compete.

The Weinstein Company, already financially challenged, is effectively over — the new incarnation will face serious hurdles (Lionsgate is one bidder to buy the outfit, mostly for its library and development slate).

It’s unclear if Fox Searchlight will survive the move to Disney, which already once declared its disinterest in art-house film and is clearly (and correctly) focused on launching its own streaming service to challenge Netflix head-on.

That leaves Focus at NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Classics and the unknown unknowns around A24.

4. Women and the Future

As should be obvious by now, the culture of Hollywood shifted in 2017. The casting couch, the permissive atmosphere on sets, the casual and constant sexual assaults and harassment of the (apparent) past are no longer tolerated as we look to 2018.

Dozens of bad individuals were drummed out of the entertainment and media industry in 2017. (TheWrap’s rogue’s gallery now has a stunning 68 people in it, all men.) The shock waves of the most heinous behavior are still reverberating, spilling over to harm the reputations of icons like Meryl Streep or companies that canceled every Louis CK sketch ever created.

The pendulum is still swinging far to one side, as the latest round of “he tapped my butt/she tapped by butt” nonsense suggests, and eventually it will swing back, hopefully coming to rest somewhere around the midpoint of decency and common sense.

But “the reckoning,” as it is aptly called, has been necessary. Like all revolutions, it has been painful and not always just.

There are calls across the industry for gender parity, not just equity, in the decision-making suites and behind the camera. There are early signs that the savviest of companies — such as United Talent Agency — are adopting these goals or considering doing so. This year’s biggest box office hits — “Beauty and the Beast,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Wonder Woman” all had female leads — a positive sign for the future.

Hollywood in 2018 will be about change. Disruption — both on the business side and the cultural side of the entertainment business — will be the guiding theme. Happy New Year.

Related stories from TheWrap:

At TheGrill 2017, A Tipping Point: Tech Platforms Have Arrived on the Shores of Content

Disney's 'Star Wars' Movies Have Already Earned Back $4 Billion Lucasfilm Investment at Box Office

9 Biggest Billion-Dollar Entertainment and Media Deals in 2017 (Photos)

20 Biggest Movie Letdowns of 2017: From 'Life' to 'Justice League' (Photos)

2017 Box Office Hits and Misses, From Marvel Blockbusters to Matt Damon's Many Duds

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Sasha Alexander, CAA-GBG’s Kendra Bracken-Ferguson Among Speakers at 2018 BE Conference for Millennial Women Tue, 19 Dec 2017 22:28:42 +0000 Wrap Staff Actress Sasha Alexander, CAA-GBG Chief Digital Officer Kendra Bracken-Ferguson and Women’s March LA Foundation founder Emiliana Guereca are among the speakers and mentors who will participate in TheWrap’s 2018 BE Conference at SXSW in Austin on March 11-12, 2018.

In addition, NASA scientist Andrea Razzaghi and PrismWork Founder & CEO Lisen Stromberg will return for the second annual conference, which TheWrap launched in 2017 to allow for outstanding millennial women to be mentored by leaders in entertainment, science, politics, media and business on how they can push boundaries, innovate and be game changers.

Sasha Alexander is a talented and versatile actress in both film and television, a director and producer known for playing Dr. Maura Isles on TNT’s hit drama “Rizzoli & Isles,” and for her role as Special Agent Caitlin Todd in the first two seasons of the popular drama “NCIS.”

She is also heavily involved with the UN Foundation and their programs for empowering and educating young women around the world, including GirlUp and the Shot@Life Campaign.

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson is chief digital officer for CAA-GBG and an expert in navigating digital space. Prior to creating The BrainTrust, she co-founded Digital Brand Architects, which has grown into the go-to firm for influencer management.

Emiliana Guereca is the founder of Women’s March LA Foundation. She is also an award-winning event producer who devotes much of her time to advocacy programs for women’s rights, Latino education and gender equality. In 2016, she founded the Women’s March LA Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was the driving force behind last January’s official Women’s March in Los Angeles.

Andrea Razzaghi is deputy director of Astrophysics, NASA Science Mission Directorate overseeing the Agency’s research programs and missions necessary to discover how the Universe works and to explore how the Universe began. Among many roles, she manages a portfolio of over 20 NASA missions and/or international partnerships including the U.S.’s great space observatories Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer, which have transformed an understanding of the cosmos.

PrismWork Founder & CEO Lisen Stromberg is an author, culture innovation consultant, and widely regarded speaker who empowers people and companies to reimagine the future of work through work/life success.

She and her team at PrismWork partner with companies, leaders, and advocates, to ensure women and millennials thrive in the workplace. She is currently serving as the acting COO of the 3% Movement, committed to changing the ratio of women in leadership roles in the advertising industry.

BE is focused on connections, experience and mentorship, matching industry leaders with young female professionals to help them connect and grow and succeed in their professional lives.

The BE Conference is a premier conference that connects change makers seeking to make an impact with game changers at the top of their fields who want to inspire and mentor the next generation of leaders. The audience consists of 350 millennials, including entrepreneurs, influencers and rising stars in their respective worlds, along with 50 mentors who are eager to teach and learn from each other.

Launched in 2017 by TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman, BE Conference offers keynote interviews, panel discussions, workshops, networking and mentoring sessions that build meaningful connections, encourage constructive change, and empower the next generation to BE the best possible version of themselves.

More information on attending, sponsoring or mentoring at BE is available at

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Scene at BE Conference 2017: Kristen Bell, Soledad O'Brien, Mentors and More (Photos)

Watch Kristen Bell Talk Entrepreneurship, Kick Off BE Conference (Exclusive Video)

TheWrap and BE Conference Aim to Expand Opportunity for Women

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Behind the Disney-Fox Merger: 7 Things We Still Need to Know – and 3 We Already Do Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:10:23 +0000 Sharon Waxman The merger of 21st Century Fox’s main entertainment assets with The Walt Disney Company announced on Thusday is one of those deals that come around once in a generation.

It signals a major change in the balance of power in Hollywood, as well as serves as a reflection of the seismic shift that has happened over the past decade with the rise of technology platforms.

WaxWord will weigh in on that a bit later, but in the meantime, here are seven questions that weigh on our minds with this mega-merger:

1. What happens to top executives?
Dozens of top-notch executives are thrown into limbo by the merger, a talent pool the likes of which has not been available for decades.

Will streaming giants Amazon and Netflix swoop in to poach Fox executives? I think yes. Among the chief targets are studio chief Stacey Snider, production chief Emma Watts, Fox 2000 lead Elizabeth Gabler, marketing veterans Pam Levine or Julie Rieger — all on the movie side alone.

And it’s anybody’s guess the next corporate home for the unique management and programming skills of Dana Walden and Gary Newman — partners of two decades — not to mention the couple dozen of top rated television chiefs who work for them.

2. What about Peter Rice?
Rice, president of 21st Century Fox as well as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fox Networks Group, is one of the top executives at Fox.

He has been Rupert Murdoch’s favored non-biological son for two decades, often seen as someone who could lead the company. Will he be left in the cold, or groomed to succeed Bob Iger?

3. What exactly happens to Hulu?
Hulu is sticking around. Iger has made clear that whatever Disney’s new streaming service is — it’s not this. So now Disney will own a 60 percent stake in Hulu — the combined stake of Disney and Fox — and will need to decide about the future of the streaming service.

The streaming service has had some significant success in the past year but has also been plagued by infighting among the owner-parents — which also include Comcast (through NBCUniversal) and Time Warner (through Turner Broadcasting).

4. Does Fox Searchlight have a future?
The prized indie film studio, which won Best Picture with “12 Years a Slave” and has a major Oscar contender this year with “The Shape of Water,” is a source of prestige but not great revenue or profits at Fox.

Will Disney keep it as a standalone label after its rocky 17-year experience with Miramax, which it sold in 2010? Will it be relegated to making movies for the streaming service?

5. Will Disney have an appetite R-rated fare?
Fox has built the model for R-rated superhero action with “Deadpool,” and fan-friendly horror fare like Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” Can this comfortably live with the Disney brand of filmed entertainment? Fans are going to hope so.

6. Will this media mega-merger pass muster with Donald Trump’s regulators?
With the Trump-era Department of Justice suing AT&T over its planned acquisition of Time-Warner, many will want to see the same scrutiny of this mega-deal.

It seems Rupert Murdoch’s friendship with Donald Trump might smooth the path, although many will be watching the space closely. (Personally I see zero chance of Donald doing anything to discomfit Rupert’s plans. He needs Fox News too much.)

7. How will exhibitors react?
This move further weakens theatrical exhibition, since it creates fewer sources of movie content and thus diminishes their leverage. The struggling chains are now being confronted with the pressure of MoviePass — a flat fee subscription service — and now the overwhelming force of Disney plus Fox.

The three things we know are:
• Hulu is staying put for the moment.

• X-Men and the Fantastic Four are likely to hook up with other Marvel superheroes in the not-too-distant future.

• Rupert and Donald will stay tight buddies, and Bob Iger ain’t running for president next cycle.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Writers Guild West Warns Fox-Disney Merger Will Be at 'Expense of Creators'

Why the Disney-Fox Deal Won't Be Good for Nerds, or Anyone Else (Commentary)

X-Men, Fantastic Four Fans Rejoice at Prospect of Mega-Avengers Movies With Disney-Fox Merger

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Elvis Costello, T Bone Burnett, Common and More to Talk Up Their Oscar Song Contenders Mon, 11 Dec 2017 23:56:06 +0000 Sharon Waxman Common, Diane Warren, Common, T. Bone Burnett and other top songwriters will gather Monday to discuss their work on some of this year’s most buzzed-about films.

TheWrap is sponsoring the 2018 Oscar Song Contender event, which includes a screening of clips from films featuring the songs as well as a panel discussion moderated by TheWrap Awards Editor Steve Pond.

Participants include:

• Multiple award-winners Diane Warren and Common for “Stand Up for Something” (from the film Marshall)

• Academy Award-winning singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham for “How Shall a Sparrow Fly” (from the film Hostiles)

• Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson who along with Laura Karpman wrote “Jump” (from the film Step)

• Academy Award-winning actor, writer and director Kenneth Branagh who now adds songwriter to his list of accomplishments by writing the lyrics to “Never Forget” (from the film Murder on the Orient Express) written with Patrick Doyle

• Music chameleon and raconteur Elvis Costello will discuss “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way” (from the film “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”)

• Legendary songwriter, producer and musician T. Bone Burnett & OneRepublic Frontman Ryan Tedder for “Truth to Power” (from the film “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”)

Exclusive video from the evening will be available on TheWrap’s Facebook page.

The program, hosted by TheWrap founder and editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman and presented by Dolby Laboratories, will also be re-broadcast on Monday, December 18, at 7 p.m. on SiriusXM’s music talk channel Volume.


Related stories from TheWrap:

'Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle' Sets Exclusive Early Screening for Amazon Prime Members

First 'Phantom Thread' Screening Unveils Another Obsessive Daniel Day-Lewis Performance

Disney Defends Banning LA Times From Screenings: 'Complete Disregard for Basic Journalism Standards'

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How They Saved Ojai: A Letter From a Town to Its Firefighters Sun, 10 Dec 2017 17:47:31 +0000 Sharon Waxman They saved Ojai. That’s the short version.

But how one of the worst fires in California history burned right up to the edge of this small, spiritual town and then stopped, leaving it virtually intact, is one of the great dramas in the tableau of ferocious natural destruction we’ve been watching.

On Saturday, all along the road into Ojai, homemade signs dotted the path: “Thank you for saving our town,” one read. “Thank you to the first responders,” and just “Thank You.” And more thank yous.

Not everyone was lucky. The charred remains of something called the Ojai Prayer Club stood like a wounded sentry on the mountain above the valley. The fire blew through every inch of this retreat, which up to a week ago had majestic views.

But in the main, this gentle valley of ex-hippies, orange groves and spiritual seekers survived untouched. A few hundred feet from the prayer club, purple bougainvillea danced at the windy entrance of a neighboring estate.

Remains of the Ojai Prayer Club

It was not a certain outcome by any means. The fire began on Monday in the mountainous eastern part of town, as firefighters were busy battling another blaze that was coursing through Santa Paula, not far away. Fed by dry chaparral and an unpredictable wind, the fire raced toward Ojai, a town of 8,000 nestled in the shadow of the Topa Topa mountain range.

“The second fire that started in upper Ojai was a separate start. That took on its own life and then moved into Ojai proper,” explained Steve Swindle, the public information officer for Ventura County Firefighters. He is also a firefighter and was battling the blaze in Santa Paula on Monday when the Ojai fire started.

He described what became a nightmare for residents, as the first fire circled back and joined the second one to create a burning noose around the town:

“The first fire moved down the canyon into Santa Paula. It caught easterly  winds and headed west into east Ventura, across Ventura proper, then to west Ventura, jumped highway 33, and got into the backside of the coastal range and burned through there. It went up into Casitas Spring, and then came around the front side of Ojai. It literally did a circle.”

For two days, the fire was zero percent contained, burning to the south, the east and the north, as residents watched and decided whether to evacuate.

At a private boarding school to the east of the downtown strip, the realization of what could happen began to take hold. In a letter to the school community, Thacher head of school Michael Mulligan began to share increasingly alarming developments:

“It has scorched the eastern and southern hills of the Ojai, and it has worked its way to the eastern border of the Thacher campus,” he wrote on Monday. “The terrain on both sides of the Gymkhana Field is now burned off; the chaparral on Huntington Trail has effectively been cleared; and the fire has crept over to the borders of our new solar field but has left them untouched thanks to the barren horse corrals. Tonight there are embers glowing throughout these hills but no active flames.”

The embers were a serious threat, because the wind drove them ahead of the fire, and as Swindle explained, created a vacuum effect that exponentially increased the speed of the flames spreading.

And for the first 12 hours, firefighters in Ojai were on their own.

“The fire was just raging and we couldn’t catch it.,” Swindle said. “Normally we’ll flank a fire and knock it down. On this one, because it was burning so crazy, we were just following it and cleaning up behind it. You can’t stop it — it’s an amazing force of nature that you cannot stop. It’s like a death wish if you get in front of that.”

The authorities ordered strike teams in, and in a military-style operation, moved hundreds of men and women into place. Reinforcements flooded in by Wednesday, even as the fire and wind raged on the mountainsides. A total of 5,000 firefighters from a half-dozen states mobilized to fight the Ventura fires.

In the Topa Topa neighborhood, firefighters made a stand at the base of the foothills and held back the flames. Resident Sharon Maharry said homeowners broke into sobs when they realized the fire was being beaten back.

“My hat goes off to these three dudes and the other firemen who stood their ground,” a grateful resident Erik Wilde wrote on his Facebook page, under a photo of silhouetted firefighters.

Thacher evacuated its 300 students ahead of the official call by the county for everyone to get out. Mulligan described “huge billowing smoke plumes” coming out of the hills and right up to the border of the campus on Thursday. “The fire crew watches them carefully, sets back fires, and uses a little water here and there. And everything turns out just fine,” he wrote.

Myself, I’m here because I bought a home here a few months ago, eager for a quiet place on the weekends and holidays. Ojai is special, as most residents here will tell you. Friends are easy to come by, and so is solitude if you want that. The natural beauty is breathtaking.

But it was all close to going up in smoke.

Around the town on Saturday, residents shared stories of homes that burned, and how theirs miraculously survived.

The haze hung heavy in the air, a few rogue fires were still burning by the side of the road and high up on a mountain ridge. In town, the evacuation notice had been lifted and air quality — yesterday “hazardous” — was just “very unhealthy.” A group called “Direct Relief” handed out face masks.

Everywhere was the evidence of the raging wind and fire that encircled this town just a few days ago.

The once-green mountains were stripped bald, like a brutal scalping had taken place. And the black soot of burned trees tiptoed right up to the 33 highway, the main artery that links the Ojai valley to the Pacific Ocean at Ventura.

Once you get into Ojai, the soaring eucalyptus trees are back.

“More than anything it’s just luck,” said Swindle, reflecting on why Ojai was spared. “The second thing is in this county we have a well established weed abatement program, where you have to clear 100 feet of brush all around your house. It creates a defensible space for us to get in and defend your home against fire. “

He continued: “And also because the valley (pauses to cough from smoke), where it sits, it’s sheltered from the east winds by the mountains.”

He added, almost as an afterthought:  “And the valiant efforts of our firefighters. They got in there in horrible conditions.”

Yeah, how about those guys. #Gratitude

Related stories from TheWrap:

Ellen DeGeneres Evacuates as California Wildfires Spread Through Santa Barbara County

LA Wildfires: Bel-Air Residents Return to Survey Damage After Thousands Forced to Evacuate

See the Shocking Devastation of the SoCal Wildfires (Photos)

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Matt Lauer, Russell Simmons, Garrison Keillor and the Upending of Everything Fri, 01 Dec 2017 01:07:40 +0000 Sharon Waxman We’ve stopped panicking in Hollywood. Now we just stand around in confusion, jaws agape at the news that continues to swarm around us like an angry, buzzing hive.

Three more icons of media and entertainment have fallen in the past two days. We woke up on Tuesday to Matt Lauer, the boy-next-door of morning news, being summarily fired from NBC, followed by the defrocking of midwestern uncle Garrison Keillor. And then Russell Simmons — the guru of Hollywood yoga — apologized for being a jerk and quit all his businesses after an accusation by the screenwriter daughter of Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne.

All of these men were accused of, and admitted while not admitting to, misbehaving sexually with younger women.

Who knows what to expect anymore?

We’ve come some distance from figures like Harvey Weinstein and Brett Ratner and Kevin Spacey, who looked and acted the part of bully, Lothario or predator (in no particular order).

Now we have to think of Matt Lauer wielding a sex toy. No wonder Katie Couric is dumbstruck — though eventually she too will need to speak up.

Since last I wrote in this space, John Lasseter has been banished from Disney, producer Gary Goddard has lost his perch, the showrunner of Supergirl has been fired by the CW and police investigations continue apace against Weinstein and Spacey.

The uprising started by the Weinstein revelations is now everywhere in media and politics. (One wonders when finance and tech will join the conversation.)

I happened to be in New York and Washington DC this week, and there is no more comprehension of this cultural cluster bomb here than on the West Coast. Precious few — okay, nobody — wanted to comment officially about the paroxysms at NBC over Lauer and CBS with the ouster of Charlie Rose. One staffer at MSNBC whispered to me that she gets all her news about Ronan Farrow’s reporting from other news outlets. Neither NBC nor MSNBC touch the story, it was noted.

Why the silence, I asked? “Nobody knows,” came the response.

At a screening for a new documentary about Ben Bradlee, an auditorium full of media and political elite started hissing when footage appeared of Charlie Rose interviewing the venerable Washington Post editor in years past. (Though one might wonder how Bradlee would fare in the current climate, having left two wives for new lovers.)

We can’t keep up with the rogue’s gallery of men, once paragons of trust, and now disgraced.

Getty Images

Washington is in utter turmoil, with accusations of sexual misconduct flying between Republicans and Democrats, all against the backdrop of the chaotic Trump presidency.

It’s hard to sort the politics from the misconduct, as charges and countercharges fly. What resonates is the testimony of women coming forward, speaking out with confidence and poignancy, whether against Democratic Congressional veteran John Conyers or Senate candidate Roy Moore. It’s hard for even Ivanka Trump and Nancy Pelosi to stand by them.

My Twitter feed is full of women cheering on survivors of sexual assault as they come forward one by one, a digitally assembled Greek chorus, demanding justice.

Every news organization has a list of people about whom they have “heard things.” Many of those on TheWrap’s list have been exposed, and have exited their jobs. There are others.

Meanwhile, our president continues his tirade against the media. His own accusers of sexual misconduct go unanswered, while the leaders of our media and entertainment landscape lose their positions, one by one.

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Hollywood Panics as Post-Harvey Housecleaning Continues Mon, 13 Nov 2017 03:10:22 +0000 Sharon Waxman No one dares leave their email for more than a few minutes. God forbid they miss the latest report of sexual misconduct, or the latest project to be canceled because of a new accusation.

Moment by moment, hour by hour, bad actors (by which I mean Bad Actors) are being exposed and excised from the Hollywood body politic like cancerous growths.

Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Louis C.K., the accusations come fast and the consequences faster. Harvey was dumped by every organization in the entertainment industry including the Motion Picture Academy but it took more than a week.

By the time last Friday rolled around, Louis C.K. — whose skeevy behavior apparently did not include rape — was fired by more Holllywood entertainment companies in 24 hours than he had monologue jokes. HBO, Netflix, FX, Universal Pictures and The Orchard all declared him persona non grata — down to removing his old shows from streaming platforms — even though the guy apologized.

It’s a new day and the rules that prevailed for decades are out the window. Zero tolerance for sexual misconduct is the order of the day, with Rose McGowan leading the revolutionary army. (Or, as she calls it, #RoseArmy.)

But now, admitting wrongdoing and promising to change is not sufficient anymore. Louis C.K. tried that and it didn’t help him. Prosecution and due process is completely irrelevant. If you’re accused, best to pack your bags.

Panic at what seems like a certain hysteria is gripping the industry.

Those still undiscovered — the other bad actors — inwardly cringe and figure out how to get out of town for that urgent meeting in Shanghai. Everybody else is wondering — what is happening? What just happened?

Friends from far-off places and family call to earnestly ask: Why now? Why the avalanche of accusations, why the roaring rejection by companies, why the seeming lack of distinction between obnoxious flirting, a too-insistent proposition and rape?

I will tell you why. It’s because — if I may speak for all womankind — women are over this s—.

Because for too many decades, there has been a cold disconnect between publicly stated values of gender equality and this seedy behavior toward women. For too long, women were afraid to come forward because they felt they would be disbelieved. Some of them figured they may as well take the money and shut up, since that was the best they could hope for.

Then Bill Cosby — beloved Bill Cosby — was revealed to be an abuser of contemptible proportions, for decades, while we publicly adored him. (He’s not been convicted of anything at this time, but raise your hand if you think three dozen women are lying.)

Then Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape was released, and decent people thought it would disqualify him for the presidency. And it didn’t. Now we have a p—y-grabber-in-chief in the White House.

What we are seeing today is the pent-up rage of women disrespected and disbelieved, objectified sexually and expected to take it in stride, honey — not just in Hollywood but across the spectrum of Western society.

And the collateral damage includes the movies that were made by the now-pariah people, TV projects now put on hold. Awards-season movies that Weinstein can’t release. Sundance titles they’ll never champion. This means innocent peoples’ jobs and liveihoods, this has implications for shareholders of media and entertainment companies. The ripple effects will continue for months.

It’s a different day in Hollywood, that’s for sure.

I don’t know where this ends up. I can’t help but feel that contemporary porn culture, contemporary dating culture — all those years of obsessing over male pleasure instead of authentic sexual connection — has something to do with it.

What I know is that this isn’t ending anytime soon. The cleaning of Hollywood’s house continues.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Hollywood Hair-Trigger: 11 Films and TV Shows Impacted by Sexual Harassment Accusations (Photos)

George Takei 'Shocked and Bewildered' by Sexual Assault Claims

'Arrow,' 'The Flash' Executive Producer Suspended Over Sexual Harassment Accusation

Top DC Comics Editor Accused of Sexual Harassment

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Hollywood Reels From Post-Harvey Flood of Sexual Misconduct Accusations Mon, 06 Nov 2017 02:03:41 +0000 Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman Across Hollywood, industry veterans are grappling with shame, anger and fear as sexual assault and harassment accusations continue to break everywhere in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s personal and professional implosion.

Conversations with more than a dozen industry insiders in the past several days reflect frank embarrassment over the sordid revelations of sexual misconduct, fear over the cascading revelations that continue to emerge and worry at the spillover effect into their own organizations.

“I knew that this s— happened, but did not want to think my industry was so complicit with these abusers,” said one production executive currently working on a big live-action adaptation of an animated property. “We have enough to deal with: crazy locations, schedules, rigid studio budgets. And you have to worry about people molesting you.”

Within the industry, people have gone from shock over reports of Weinstein’s serial predatory behavior to concern that bad behavior is more widespread than anyone previously believed.

A talent manager who handles cable stars said both he and his clients were “sick over this news breaking every day. It’s not one explosive story, it’s something new every day. It’s hard on your spirit.”

It’s been less than a month since two exposés ran accusing Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The stories rocked show business and almost immediately sparked an avalanche of similar accusations against figures like Amazon Studios head Roy Price, director James Toback, actor Kevin Spacey, producer Brett Ratner, journalist Mark Halperin, agents and managers like Tyler Grasham and David Guillod and more.

Many of them have taken leave or been removed from their jobs, with ripple effects across the industry. “House of Cards” production has been suspended, for example, and the future of the next and final season is in question.

Several individuals called the daily barrage of sordid stories a “nightmare,” creating a climate that has placed a damper on the enthusiasm for the upcoming awards season and sparked nervous conversations at talent agencies, production companies, studios and PR firms about their own clients.

In the case of CAA, this led to a decision to drop Spacey as a client last week, as did his publicist Staci Wolfe. That in turn has raised questions about how talent and PR agencies might respond in the future to accusations against other clients — from Dustin Hoffman to Casey Affleck to names who have yet to emerge.

“Who isn’t looking at everything right now?” one exasperated agency staffer said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “If you’re not, you have a different problem.”

Past legal settlements are being dusted off and scrutinized anew out of concern that any leaks that might embarrass the institutions at best, or leave them liable at worst, said one public relations expert who works closely with the talent agencies.

“You can be sure that human resources departments all over town are carefully reading any legal settlements they’ve made,” said this veteran.

While none of the big four talent houses — CAA, WME, UTA  and ICM — would comment on specific reviews, individuals at CAA and WME said the companies are evaluating internal policies and outside relationships for any problematic ties. At UTA, CEO Jeremy Zimmer sent an internal email clarifying that harassment in any form is intolerable and underscoring that any employee confronting the issue should feel comfortable in coming forward.

Even those who have been most outspoken about reforming Hollywood culture may have Achilles heels in their past work with individuals who have fallen under the spotlight for bad behavior.

Cathy Schulman, an Oscar-winning producer and the president of Women in Film, sits on the executive board of the management company Primary Wave Entertainment — whose co-CEO David Guillod resigned Saturday after facing accusations in TheWrap that he drugged and assaulted a female client. Schulman has declined multiple requests to comment.

According to many individuals TheWrap interviewed, what’s most unsettling is the speed at which the accusations are flying — as well as the consequences landing.

The dismantling of Weinstein’s legacy took several weeks, from his firing by The Weinstein Company Board to his ejection by the Motion Picture Academy and the PGA to the escalating threat of criminal charges.

But last week’s Kevin Spacey scandal played out in just five days: After more than a dozen men accused Spacey of sexual misconduct, including several who were minors at the time, Netflix severed ties with the star of its hit show “House of Cards” and even jettisoned a Gore Vidal biopic that was already in postproduction. His agency CAA fired him, as did his publicist, Staci Wolfe.

Spacey, whose lawyer has denied most of the allegations, ended the week by retreating from Hollywood to seek unspecified “evaluation and treatment.”

“Everyone knew about Kevin Spacey, which is why the response was so swift,” a producer told TheWrap. There are “lots of other names floating around.”

Many Hollywood executives are also conducting a personal inventory of their own behavior in interacting with colleagues. One insider at a talent management firm said some staffers were asking, “Where does it end? Did I do anything that I have to worry about?”

A top corporate executive in TV was even nervous about playing matchmaker at the office, wondering in hindsight if any intrusion in employees’ personal lives was out of bounds in this post-Harvey world.

Related stories from TheWrap:

David Guillod Resigns as Co-CEO of Primary Wave Following Sexual Assault Accusations

Uma Thurman's Reaction to Question About Flood of Sexual Assault Allegations Will Give You Chills (Video)

WME Places Adam Venit on Leave After Sexual Harassment Accusations

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‘American Idol’ Producer Peter Hurwitz Pushed Out as Core Media CEO (Exclusive) Mon, 30 Oct 2017 22:29:37 +0000 Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman Peter Hurwitz, the CEO of “American Idol” producer CORE Media Group, is stepping down and transitioning to an advisory role, two insiders familiar with the matter told TheWrap.

Hurwitz is the second former Weinstein Company lawyer in the last week to exit a top role at a prominent company. He was pushed aside to make room for executive chairman Dennis Miller, a former Turner Networks executive, who quietly joined the company in September, the insiders said.

Hurwitz has previously served as general counsel at The Weinstein Company, and one insider said there has been anxiety within CORE about whether he knew anything about Harvey Weinstein’s payouts to women who accused him of sexual assault. But a spokesman for CORE said there was “no inquiry whatsoever” into his work at Weinstein.

Hurwitz did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for CMG said, “No one at the company ever expressed any concern about Peter’s prior association with The Weinstein Co., and there is no  “insider” at Core who could truthfully say such a thing.”

Hurwitz served as general counsel for The Weinstein Company from 2006 to 2009. Former Lionsgate International COO Andrew Kramer departed that company last Thursday. He had served as TWC’s president of business affairs and later general counsel.

ABC, which will air the upcoming “American Idol” revival in March, declined to comment on the matter.

Shortly after the Weinstein scandal broke in early October, an insider close to the revamped “Idol” told TheWrap of “lots of quiet concern…  about what Peter might have done in the name of Weinstein.”

The insider continued: “But a general counsel would and should know all. So the answer that ‘I didn’t do the settlements’ can be misleading. The question being asked is what did he know while in that job and what steps did he take to stop the further victimization of women.”

CORE Media was originally jointly owned by 21st Century Fox and Apollo Global Management. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Summer 2016 and reorganized by late September that year, a process that Hurwitz led. The current owners are Tennenbaum Capital Partners and Crestview Media Investors.

The company eliminated about $385 million in debt with the help of the new lenders.

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How Fabrizio Lombardo Became Harvey Weinstein’s Hustler Wed, 25 Oct 2017 16:44:32 +0000 Sharon Waxman My in-box and physical mailbox have been inundated with messages from people eager, finally, to reveal the real story behind former Miramax Italy head Fabrizio Lombardo and Harvey Weinstein.

Many of them are heartbreaking. They mostly involve models who say they were recruited, stalked and otherwise pushed into having sexual encounters with important people in the entertainment industry, Weinstein among them. I have already shared the stories of four such people, but there is a lot more to know.

Let us begin with what more I’ve learned about Lombardo.

“I met the overly ambitious street hustler Lombardo as a naïve young model first in Milan and then later in Paris where he stationed himself and operated his procurement talent… out of the apartment of Jean Luc Brunel of Karin Models,” a former model who wants to remain anonymous told me.

Jean Luc Brunel is the founder of a modeling agency who in news reports, including a 1988 exposé on “60 Minutes,” was connected to Jeffrey Epstein, a Florida billionaire convicted of seeking sex from a minor. Brunel subsequently sued Epstein in civil court in 2015, accusing him of being the cause of his losing millions of dollars because of his tarnished reputation.

Back to Lombardo. According to the model, he “learned the game from some of the best playboys and hustlers Europe produced…. He was a maverick at meeting rich, powerful men who liked his thick Italian accent, brash behavior and predominantly his talent to wrangle pretty girls. Unfortunately I was also one of them.”

She said that Lombardo moved to New York, which is where Lombardo befriended Weinstein in the early 1990s. Lombardo himself corroborates this in an interview he gave to the New York Times published on Tuesday, saying he first met Weinstein on St. Bart’s and became friends in New York.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein said they met during the making of “Pulp Fiction,” “when Mr. Lombardo was dating the actress Uma Thurman.” (“Pulp Fiction” was shot in 1993.)

Lombardo declined to respond to multiple emails and phone calls to his cell from TheWrap. His lawyer Bruno della Ragione sent a general statement: “I have been retained by Dr. Fabrizio Lombardo, who has already denied involvement in the ‘Weinstein case’ through the appropriate communication channels, to inform you that all news, third party interviews, statements and hypotheses that refer to Dr. Lombardo are unfounded and, accordingly, do not accurately represent the facts.”

He then said he would prosecute anyone “promulgating false information” about Lombardo.

According to the model, Lombardo moved to Los Angeles from New York a couple of years later seeking to become a film producer. “But after a few months of very bitter and cold reception,” she said, he realized that he would not be successful at that.

By the late ’90s, Lombardo was back in Europe. “At this point, Harvey owed him and at the same time needed him for his endless zest,” she said. “The timing was perfect considering how many new projects were being scheduled to shoot in Europe.” For example, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” shot in Italy, came out in 1999.

The model added, “He could deliver any girl or any actress as the proudly crowned head of Miramax Europe.” (Correction: Actually, Lombardo was head of Miramax Italy.)

In the Times, a former Miramax Italy executive said she received a call from her superiors urging her to use Lombardo in everything she did.

“I thought this was a way to legitimize his involvement in the company,” Elizabeth Dreyer told the Times, adding that his responsibilities amounted to setting up meetings and translating. (This tracks precisely with my reporting from 2004, by the way.)

The model described the activities of Miramax Italy, which she said had two female employees: “Endless castings for ‘upcoming’ movies, parties, dinners and of course all the notorious European movie festivals… Lombardo was in charge, looking important, moving the chess pieces as he pleased all blessed by HW. Everybody knew what was going on and a lot of the power players were rewarded by invitations to all this entertainment courtesy of Miramax Europe [sic]. Harvey would travel to Rome more frequently than ever, staying at the Eden Hotel. The game was on.”

This comment also tracks with what Dreyer told the Times. Years earlier, she recalled trying to book a room for Weinstein at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc outside Cannes and being told “that he was barred because the owner said he ‘brings too many girls.'”

The model observed what has been stated to me by Asia Argento, Zoe Brock, Sacha Voski and a producer who declines to be named, that Miramax in Italy “was basically a procurement operation to please its head Harvey Weinstein and all of his cronies courtesy of his ‘Boy-Friday’ Fabrizio Lombardo.”

For the record, Lombardo denied such allegations to the Times. “That’s absolutely not true. I completely deny it. It’s false,” he said, when asked whether he was “he was employed in part to help satisfy Mr. Weinstein’s voracious appetite,” as the Times put it.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein denied it too. “As the executive in charge of Rome and parts of Europe, Mr. Lombardo made contributions that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues for the company,” she said.

Those are words that are easy to throw around. So far, in my years of reporting on this in the past and in recent weeks, I have seen no evidence of this at all. And Weinstein has never claimed this to me before.

In the Times, Lombardo did claim credit for getting Miramax to acquire North American rights to Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore’s 2000 film “Malèna,” which went on to gross $3.4 million domestically.

More to come.

Related stories from TheWrap:

4 Women Corroborate Fabrizio Lombardo Procured Women for Harvey Weinstein

That Time Harvey Weinstein Visited New York Times' Top Editor to Kill My 2004 Expose

'Harvey Weinstein's Media Enablers'? The New York Times Is One of Them

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Jennifer Salke, Kelly Bush Novak, Claire Forlani, Lauren Sivan Join Power Women Breakfast LA Tue, 24 Oct 2017 19:02:54 +0000 Wrap Staff TheWrap is pleased to announce a landmark gathering of industry voices committed to positive change and influencing society’s response to sexual assault at the Power Women Breakfast LA on Thursday October 26.

The program will include the panel: “Embracing Inclusion: Telling Stories that Champion the New Narrative,” that will feature NBC Entertainment chief Jennifer Salke.

Survivors of sexual assault or harassment will speak at the event including journalist Lauren Sivan, actress Claire Forlani and a soon-to-be-named prominent figure. Numerous guests of honor who have survived sexual assault in Hollywood will also be present in the audience.

“We must use this opportunity to have an honest conversation about the allegations of sexual assault rocking our industry,” said Wrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman. “We are committed to working together to listen to survivors and move to create the change needed for a healthier ecosystem in Hollywood.”

The breakfast will offer two panels devoted to creating positive change, including a conversation about embracing inclusivity in storytelling that will include NBC Entertainment chief Jennifer Salke.

A courageous group of sexual assault and harassment victims including actress Claire Forlani, Fox 11 news anchor Lauren Sivan and others to be named will talk about how to encourage a gender-balanced landscape where women can thrive.

The day will also feature rising star Brooklynn Prince, actress in “The Florida Project” and Courage in Journalism Award-winner Saniya Toiken of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Kazakhstan, where journalists are routinely threatened, beaten, or killed because of their work.

The speaker program will be followed by a special #MeToo Town Hall that will be live streamed and moderated by Producer Hilary Shor and Producer, Director and Photographer Jeff Vespa. An expert panel will offer actionable steps for dealing with difficult situations of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace and an open forum for sharing stories in a safe environment. Confirmed speakers include Greenberg Glusker Partner Priya Sopori and Women in Media Executive Director Tema Steig and others to be announced.

A live auction to benefit the Joyful Heart Foundation, a national organization aiding women victims of sexual violence will take place during the event. Founded by Mariska Hargitay, their mission is is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.

Connecting and inspiring the leading influential women of entertainment, media, technology and brands in the key cities where those women work, create, gather, network and connect.

TheWrap in 2017 has brought its successful Power Women franchise to DC, SF, NY, and now LA, building a broad network and community of professional women who are decision-makers and mothers, leaders and wives, innovators and activists.

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Peter Bart Denies Covering for Harvey Weinstein: I Was Protecting Variety Thu, 19 Oct 2017 22:10:07 +0000 Sharon Waxman Peter Bart, who for 20 years ran Variety as its top editor, called to discuss the accusation that he covered for Harvey Weinstein when both men were among the most powerful folks in Hollywood.

It’s not as simple as that, he explained.

“Because Harvey had so many ferocious business enemies over the 20 years that I was running Variety, every year at this time of year I’d get at least one or two reporters come tell me that ‘Harvey will never make it through the season, he’s bankrupt, he won’t pay his bills,'” Bart said.

“Whereupon my policy was to say: ‘Let’s run the story if you can nail it. But if you can’t, then let’s not,'” Bart said. “The trouble is over a period of decades at the last minute he always pulled it together, so we couldn’t run the story that Harvey was out of business.”

He went on: “The trouble is we couldn’t nail it. Was that protecting Harvey? I was protecting Variety from being sued.”

In the Tuesday piece, “The Most Powerful Journalist In Hollywood Protected Harvey Weinstein For Years,” HuffPost reporters Jason Cherkis and Maxwell Strachan said that Bart reveled in his access to Weinstein and enforced a widely known — but unspoken — newsroom rule against negative coverage of the film executive and his companies, first Miramax and then The Weinstein Company.

A Variety insider told TheWrap: “The trades were kind of a gray area of journalism in the ’80s and ’90s. Today if you look at the kinds of reporters and editors at [the Hollywoood Reporter] and Variety, they’re top-notch journalists.”

The role of a trade editor is a delicate one, and I’m in no position to judge what Bart did or did not do. But I can vouchsafe that stories of the mogul’s imminent demise — usually financial — would frequently surface. And Harvey Weinstein would always pull it out.

Bart is now in his 80s, and is a columnist for Deadline. He ran Variety in its heyday, from 1989 to 2009. It’s worth pointing out, as others have, that Miramax published two of his books, “Dangerous Company: Dark Tales from Tinseltown, a collection of short stories” and  “Boffo! Hollywood in the Trenches: How I Learned to Love the Blockbuster and Fear the Bomb.”

If Bart didn’t cover for Weinstein, I asked him, why does he think that former staffers are saying that he did? “I have no idea,” said Bart. “It’s absurd.”

As for the sexual assault allegations against the disgraced mogul, Bart said, “I did not know this other character existed. That’s the sad thing.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Peter Bart Accused of Coddling Harvey Weinstein as Variety Editor

Harvey Weinstein Under LAPD Sexual Assault Investigation

Here's Every Harvey Weinstein Accusation of Sexual Harassment and Assault

Victims No More: How Harvey Weinstein Accusers Are Taking Charge

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That Time Harvey Weinstein Visited New York Times’ Top Editor to Kill My 2004 Expose Wed, 18 Oct 2017 19:46:14 +0000 Sharon Waxman It’s so funny about the truth. It’s so simple. And yet it’s really hard to tell.

Last week, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet blithely knocked down questions about whether the paper gutted and then buried an investigative story about Harvey Weinstein and the head of Miramax Italy, Fabrizio Lombardo, that I wrote in 2004, as I charged in a post on TheWrap.

It was “unimaginable” to him that a paper as august as the Times would cave to “pressure from Harvey Weinstein,” he said.

“After all, The Times is an institution that has published investigative reporting that caused our Chinese-language website to be blocked in China,” he wrote.

Couldn’t be. Not possible.

Baquet further cast doubt on my assertion that Weinstein had visited the newsroom to get the story killed, as I was told at the time. “The top two editors at the time, Bill Keller and Jill Abramson, say they have no recollection of being pressured over Ms. Waxman’s story,” he said.

Really? That’s weird. Because now three people affirm that that’s exactly what happened, and one of them is my former editor. According to these individuals, Weinstein, his lawyer David Boies and spokesman Matthew Hiltzik all came personally to the newsroom to meet with Executive Editor Bill Keller about the story.

Michael Cieply, who had recently joined the Times and became my direct editor, recalls the meeting: “I do remember Harvey and Boies and possibly Mathew [sic] coming to a meeting with Keller in the building early in the process,” he wrote in an email. “Keller never took any steps that I was aware of to kill the story. But I do remember defending your right to report the story in several heated exchanges with Harvey afterwards.”

This story lines up with what Ross Johnson, then a freelance writer, wrote me about visiting the newsroom on that day in fall 2004. He said the visit by Weinstein, Boies and Hiltzik was the talk of the newsroom.

Johnson said Cieply, his editor at the time, told him that Weinstein, Boies and Hiltzik had been circling the building in a town car, pushing to get a meeting with Keller, which they eventually secured.

Johnson sets the date at early September 2004, shortly after I returned from my trip to Rome and London to report my story that Lombardo, according to multiple accounts, had no film experience to be running Miramax’s Italian office and that his real job was to organize evenings with escorts and procure women for Weinstein.

Johnson’s freelance piece about Hollywood lawyers was published on October 6, 2004.

A third person who was in a position to know about the meeting but who declined to go on the record told me a similar account of Weinstein’s attempts to shut down my story: “There was definitely a meeting with Bill Keller … and I think Jill [Abramson] was there too,” the individual said.

I asked Keller and Abramson if they were sure there was no such meeting. Keller declined, twice, to answer directly: “I don’t recall the date or subject, but I do remember Harvey and David Boies coming in to complain about something,” he wrote via email. But then he said he thought it was in 2007 about a David Carr piece and gave a bunch of details about that meeting. When I asked again to confirm his recollection of the 2004 meeting he did not respond to the question.

Keller now leads The Marshall Project, a nonprofit online journalism organization focusing on issues related to criminal justice.

Abramson answered with one word: “Untrue,” when I told her an individual with knowledge of the 2004 meeting said he thought she was there.

A rep for Weinstein said she was checking. Hiltzik declined to comment. And a spokeswoman for the Times said Baquet stood by his response.

So there we have it — a bunch of vague, indirect denials about a story that the Times’ former top editors, and current top editor, presume was not subject to pressure by Weinstein even though they can’t give definitive accounts.

Keller wrote in a follow-up email that my writing about this issue now amounts to sour grapes: “Ten-plus years later, the NYT and the New Yorker scooped you, and I’m sure that feels awful. But don’t blame editors or Harvey’s bullying for the fact that you failed to nail the story.”

Sadly, it’s not about being “scooped.” It’s about whether the Times did the best job it could to serve its readers and the women who were being preyed upon in the years subsequent to the fate of my story. Certainly I would not have raised such a fuss if I did not believe that I had valid reporting that should have appeared in print at the time.

Meanwhile, more ugly information has emerged about Lombardo. I’ve already written about four women who confirm that Lombardo procured women for Weinstein in Italy and France. And that he was on the Disney payroll in 2003 and 2004 for a job that paid $400,000 annually but carried few film-related responsibilities.

I should note that Lombardo has stepped forward recently to deny the allegations. 

I should also note that my next post will share more sad, sordid details about his work for Weinstein that suggest just the opposite.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Harvey Weinstein's Media Enablers'? The New York Times Is One of Them

65 Stars Who Have Condemned Harvey Weinstein (Photos)

4 Women Corroborate Fabrizio Lombardo Procured Women for Harvey Weinstein

NY Times Columnist Writes 'Defense of Sorts' of Harvey Weinstein, Internet Revolts

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4 Women Corroborate Fabrizio Lombardo Procured Women for Harvey Weinstein Fri, 13 Oct 2017 23:22:12 +0000 Sharon Waxman Four women have stepped forward to corroborate my New York Times reporting on Harvey Weinstein from 2004 that the former head of Miramax Italy, Fabrizio Lombardo, acted as a procurer of women rather than a film executive.

Actress-director Asia Argento — who alleged in the explosive New Yorker piece published on Tuesday that she was orally raped by Weinstein during a 1997 encounter outside Cannes, France — tweeted on Tuesday night that Lombardo brought her to the mogul’s room in 1997.

“He told me it was a Miramax party,” she wrote. “Only Harvey was there.” It’s unclear if she was referring to the same incident she described in the New Yorker — in which she said an unnamed “producer” lead her to Weinstein’s room — or a separate one.

In addition, Sacha Voski, a model based in Italy in 1988 and 1989, has come forward to say that Lombardo “relentlessly stalked” her at that time, and Zoe Brock wrote a post on Medium describing a frightening stalking by Weinstein, citing Lombardo.

“He just kept coming after me…..calling me 12 times a day…..convincing convincing convincing me….offering me one of his many empty apts he just happens to have laying around Milano,” Voski wrote in an email to me. “And the ‘good life’ to go along with it…considering I had no aquaintence with him, this all was quite psycho in my eyes. I was definitive with my no’s….it just didn’t matter….he just kept coming….”

Voski said she never met Weinstein and did not let Lombardo get close enough to know who employed him. She said she went to the police to denounce Lombardo, and shortly thereafter left Milan and quit the business for a time.

Update on October 12: Lombardo was reached by the Guardian newspaper and denied being a procurer of women for Weinstein.

“I did not hunt for him,” Lombardo said in direct response to an allegation by Zoe Brock, accompanied by his attorney. “It is not my style … it is not my relationship with Weinstein,” he added.

Voski reached out and at first would not go on the record, but reconsidered, writing me: “I want to help remove the evil. You can put me on record.”

A third woman, a producer, contacted TheWrap to say that Weinstein and Lombardo were a pair seen year after year at the Venice Film Festival.  “That was his playground,” she said, referring to Weinstein. “He and Fabrizio set up court at the Excelsior Hotel bar. Girls would come by.”

Zoe Brock, a former model, wrote a vivid post on Medium about her encounter with Weinstein and Lombardo, describing a terrifying encounter with Weinstein at the Hotel du Cap in Monaco in 1997. She describes how Weinstein cornered her in his suite, she locked herself in the bathroom and told him to be ashamed of himself. When she came out she found Weinstein sitting on the bed, crying. Lombardo was there earlier that evening.

Writes Brock: ” I saw him again later that week and he claimed to have no idea and was so apologetic about what happened. He had a really lovely girlfriend and they both invited me to visit them in Rome a couple of weeks later. I arrived late in the day and discovered they had only had one bed. When i made it clear I was not going to be their third wheel I slept on a sofa and had to endure the sounds of them having really loud sex. It was too late to train back out and I was too broke to get a hotel and too scared to sleep on the streets.”

The New York Times and I have been on a tear in the past few days as people debate why the paper stripped out any reference to Lombardo procuring women in my 2004 story, and then buried it on an inside page. I stand by my position, and I am glad to see these women step forward to help bring clarity.

Who was Lombardo, you ask? His official job was head of Miramax Italy. From my 13-year-old piece: “According to an executive who has seen the internal payroll records, Mr. Lombardo was paid 335,895 euros, or $403,000, from Nov. 1, 2003, to July 31, 2004, based on an average exchange rate from the first half of 2004. Miramax executives disputed that account, saying the company last paid him in March 2004, seven months after the Italian division closed.”

And this: “Miramax kept the executive, Fabrizio Lombardo, on its payroll for months after closing the Italy office in August 2003.”

Argento, long rumored to have been a victim of Weinstein, came forward this week to charge Weinstein with rape. Here’s how Argento describes her first encounter to the New Yorker:

At the time, Argento was twenty-one and a rising actress who had twice won the Italian equivalent of the Oscar. Argento said that, in 1997, one of Weinstein’s producers invited her to what she understood to be a party thrown by Miramax at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, on the French Riviera. Argento felt professionally obliged to attend. When the producer led her upstairs that evening, she said, there was no party–only a hotel room, empty but for Weinstein: “I’m, like, ‘Where is the fucking party?’ ” She recalled the producer telling her, “Oh, we got here too early,” before he left her alone with Weinstein. (The producer denies bringing Argento to the room that night.) At first, Weinstein was solicitous, praising her work. Then he left the room. When he returned, he was wearing a bathrobe and holding a bottle of lotion. “He asks me to give a massage. I was, like, ‘Look man, I am no fucking fool,’ ” Argento said. “But, looking back, I am a fucking fool. And I am still trying to come to grips with what happened.”

The bottom line is that 13 years later we know: We should have printed what we had. How many women might it have prevented from abuse?

One other thing: Matt Damon gave an interview on Tuesday in which he explained the call he made to me at Weinstein’s behest about Lombardo.

The actor and I do not disagree on this. It was a brief call and I did not tell him what my story was about, since it did not concern him. My point was that Harvey Weinstein was using any tool he could — including getting his celebrity friends to vouch for Lombardo — to get me to back off the story.

It did not work and Matt Damon is not responsible in any way for how the story turned out. So let’s just leave him alone, please.

For those who want the full background, here’s the original post. 

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Weinstein Company Board Won’t Pay Harvey, Ex-Mogul Goes to War in NY Times Thu, 12 Oct 2017 13:42:13 +0000 Sharon Waxman

The Weinstein Company board has set off a war with fired co-founder Harvey Weinstein by deciding to sue him for damages instead of paying out his stake in the company, The Wrap has learned.

The disgraced mogul, fired by the board on Sunday, was informed on Wednesday that his 23 percent stake in The Weinstein Company will not be paid out, according to an individual with knowledge of the matter.

Instead, the company directors decided that since Weinstein’s actions have significantly damaged the company, they will seek legal remedies to recoup the losses sustained.

A representative for Weinstein did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Harvey Weinstein’s stake is estimated to be worth somewhere between $50 million to $100 million, given an estimated value for the entire company of $400 million to $500 million.

Harvey and his brother Bob have a combined 42 percent stake in the company, which was founded in 2005 after the duo left their previous venture, Disney-owned Miramax.

Harvey Weinstein had already angered the board by unleashing lawyer David Boies to tell the New York Times in a story published late Wednesday that he had informed them of monetary settlements to women long before an emergency meeting called last week just before the Times ran its exposé detailing decades of sexual misconduct.

According to Megan Twohey’s Times story on Wednesday, “David Boies, a lawyer who represented Mr. Weinstein when his contract was up for renewal in 2015, said in an interview that the board and the company were made aware at the time of three or four confidential settlements with women.”

Board member Lance Maerov told the Times that the board was informed of previous settlements without detailing when those payoffs took place or what they consisted of “but said that he had assumed they were used to cover up consensual affairs.”

Most of Weinstein’s settlements appear to have occurred during the Miramax era, when the company was owned by Disney. Ahead of signing a new employment contract with Weinstein in 2015, the TWC board wanted more direct reassurance on his conduct in the wake of a complaint by an Italian model, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, who filed a police report claiming Weinstein groped her during a 2015 meeting at the company’s Tribeca headquarters. (Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance did not file charges.)

According to the Times, the board hired an outside lawyer, H. Rodgin Cohen from the white-glove firm Sullivan and Cromwell, who examined Weinstein’s personnel file and found the complaint from Emily Nestor, an employee who accused Weinstein of pressuring her to accept sexual advances.

Cohen “assured the board in a September 2015 letter that it was legally safe to retain Mr. Weinstein because there were no unresolved complaints or threats of litigation against him,” Twohey wrote.

The story has the telltale stamp of Harvey Weinstein’s fingerprints, pressuring the company by leaking damaging information in the media spun to maximum effect.

So does his call on Wednesday to Page Six lamenting that he was “devastated” to lose his wife Georgina, and various reports in TMZ — including video of a distraught Weinstein leaving his daughter’s house on Thursday, with reports of him being suicidal.

Four members of the Weinstein board resigned in the past week after the revelation of serial instances of sexual harassment and assault by the former chief executive. Four others are hanging on, including Bob Weinstein, but the board may be out of its league in fighting the media avalanche.

Apparently Harvey Weinstein has decided to burn his own house down.

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Harvey Weinstein Scandal: 9 Things We Still Don’t Know Wed, 11 Oct 2017 22:54:25 +0000 Sharon Waxman It’s day five of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and we know a whole lot more than we did a week ago.

With the explosive allegations of rape and serial assault and harassment from The New Yorker, we know a great deal: Three rape allegations, more than a dozen stories of sexual harassment and assault — and more coming out by the minute, it seems.

But there remains a great deal that we do not know.

The questions that remain to be answered will spell the future for The Weinstein Company and its viability, those who surrounded the mogul and of course Harvey Weinstein himself.

Here are the major questions that still need to be addressed:

1. What did Bob Weinstein know and when did he know it?

Harvey’s younger brother and co-chairman has been by his side since they started Miramax in 1979.

Ronan Farrow, author of The New Yorker exposé, and others insist he must have known about his brother’s lewd conduct. That’s not necessarily clear at this point, and Bob should clarify it.

2. What did TWC COO and president David Glasser know and when did he know it?

The same applies to Weinstein’s deputy, David Glasser, who has been by his side since 2008 with the exception of a brief break during a dispute over the renewal of his contract.

Glasser is the likely choice to be named CEO of TWC — or whatever post-Weinstein name the company finds for itself — but this becomes more complicated with a cloud hanging over his head.

He needs to find a way to dispel any sense that he had knowledge of Harvey’s inappropriate conduct happening right under his nose. According to one company insider, Glasser has insisted that he knew nothing beyond Weinstein’s tumultuous temper, penchant for verbal abuse and extramarital forays — rather than harassment, and worse, of employees or actors.

3. What did the board of directors know and when did they know it?  

Four of the company’s nine directors resigned last week and have not given any explanation for doing so. (Harvey Weinstein lost his seat on the board when he was fired on Sunday.)

They may have been disgusted with Weinstein, or exasperated by his attempts to dictate the terms of his departure, but in the end they had the power to fire him. Are they worried about criminal or civil liability?

4. What did the Walt Disney Company know?

The publicly traded conglomerate was the parent company of Weinstein’s previous enterprise, Miramax, when most of the known settlements to female accusers appear to have been paid out.

According to multiple individuals knowledgeable about the company, there was little fiscal discipline around Harvey and Bob’s spending during Miramax’s Disney era, so is the entertainment giant so very sure that no hush money was spent from its coffers?

5. Who handled the payouts?

Suspicion and rumors are flying around that some former Miramax executives might have been privy to payouts. This information, however legal the payout, could leave a tarnish on reputations.

Last Thursday’s New York Times story reported that Steve Hutensky, one of Miramax’s entertainment lawyers, was sent to London to negotiate a settlement with a former employee named Zelda Perkins over a 1998 incident. Hutensky, who declined to comment to the Times, is now a producer with two films in postproduction.

6. Where did the payout money come from?

Insiders at TWC insist that the money for settlements did not come from the company and that annual audits by Ernst & Young would make that impossible.

But that may not be the case when Weinstein worked at Miramax, which was a division of Disney beginning in 1993 (the brothers left in 2005).

7. Will there be criminal charges?

Harvey has hired a criminal lawyer, and the board issued a statement Tuesday night saying it would cooperate with any criminal investigation. Sounds like police involvement is not out of the question.

8. How many settlements were there, really?

According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, Weinstein’s lawyer told the board last week — just before the New York Times story broke — that there were between “eight to 12” settlements to women.

Which means that company insiders think there’s probably more than that.

9. And finally: How many victims were there really?

It seems like the number of women who feel that Weinstein either assaulted or harassed them increases by the hour, not the day.

The numbers could be huge, and we may never indeed know how many lives he touched in an unwanted and destructive way.

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The Weinstein Company Expects to Change Name After Harvey Firing (Exclusive) Mon, 09 Oct 2017 03:55:03 +0000 Sharon Waxman The Weinstein Company is set to change its name after the firing of disgraced chief executive Harvey Weinstein, TheWrap has learned.

An individual with knowledge of the company said the Weinstein name has been irretrievably tainted by the scandal, which led to the departure of one of the most iconic moguls in modern-day Hollywood.

“TWC will need a new name,” the individual told TheWrap, adding that the decision has not been formally made but has been discussed by the board members and is expected to happen.

Bob Weinstein, Harvey’s younger brother and co-Chairman, has stepped in with COO David Glasser to run the company in the interim. Glasser seems to be the most likely pick to be CEO in Harvey Weinstein’s place, as he has been the executive’s deputy for a decade and was lured back after leaving over a contract renewal dispute two years ago.

Bob Weinstein has mainly focused on running Dimension, The Weinstein Company’s genre division.

The board terminated Harvey Weinstein after meeting yet again in emergency session on Sunday, following three days of turmoil and scandal after The New York Times published an investigative piece about his sexual misconduct.

Since then, even more lurid stories have emerged, making it difficult to justify Weinstein’s promises to take a leave of absence to get help.

Insiders tell TheWrap that Weinstein resisted their demands that he take a significant leave from the company to deal with his sexual problems and modify his behavior.

It remains to be seen what will happen to the nature and culture of the independent film company so closely tied to Harvey Weinstein’s personality and brand. The individual said the name change would likely happen this awards season, although Harvey Weinstein himself was said to be making edits to “The Current War,” the company’s awards hopeful, as recently as last week.

Said the individual: “If you do it, you do it right away.”

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‘Harvey Weinstein’s Media Enablers’? The New York Times Is One of Them Sun, 08 Oct 2017 21:43:31 +0000 Sharon Waxman Update:

Actress Asia Argento, long rumored to have been assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, finally told her story to The New Yorker on Tuesday, saying that she was orally raped by him.

Weinstein denies any instance of coerced sexual activity.

But she tweeted on Tuesday evening that Fabrizio Lombardo, the procurer of women I referenced in the story below, brought her to Weinstein’s room in 1997:

In addition, a model who asked to remain anonymous wrote me this morning about Lombardo.

“I confirm his role in Weinstein’s life as a “procurer of women”……I believe that completely, just from my own experience of him,” she wrote. As a young model in Milan, she wrote, “He just kept coming after me…..calling me 12 times a day…..convincing convincing convincing me….offering me one of his many empty apts he just happens to have laying around Milano…..and the “good life” to go along with it…considering I had no aquaintence (sic) with him, this all was quite psycho in my eyes. I was definitive with my no’s….it just didn’t matter….he just kept coming…”


A whole lot of fur has been flying since last Thursday, when The New York Times published a game-changing investigative story about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct that in lightning speed brought the mogul to his knees.

He apologized and took an immediate leave of absence from the company he co-founded, but that wasn’t enough. His board members and

legal advisers have been resigning en masse. And as new, ugly details emerge of three decades of settlements for sex-related offenses, he’s quickly becoming a national pariah.

I applaud The New York Times and writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for getting the story in print. I’m sure it was a long and difficult road.

But I simply gagged when I read Jim Rutenberg’s sanctimonious piece on Saturday about the “media enablers” who kept this story from the public for decades.

“Until now,” he puffed, “no journalistic outfit had been able, or perhaps willing, to nail the details and hit publish.”

That’s right, Jim. No one — including The New York Times.

In 2004, I was still a fairly new reporter at The New York Times when I got the green light to look into oft-repeated allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein. It was believed that many occurred in Europe during festivals and other business trips there.

I traveled to Rome and tracked down the man who held the plum position of running Miramax Italy. According to multiple accounts, he had no film experience and his real job was to take care of Weinstein’s women needs, among other things.

As head of Miramax Italy in 2003 and 2004, Fabrizio Lombardo was paid $400,000 for less than a year of employment. He was on the payroll of Miramax and thus the Walt Disney Company, which had bought the indie studio in 1993.

I had people on the record telling me Lombardo knew nothing about film, and others citing evenings he organized with Russian escorts.

At the time, he denied that he was on the payroll to help Weinstein with favors. From the story: “Reached in Italy, Mr. Lombardo declined to comment on the circumstances of his leaving Miramax or Ricucci, saying they were legal matters being handled by lawyers. ‘I am very proud of what we achieved at Miramax here in Italy,’ he said of his work for the film company. ‘It cannot be that they hired me because I’m a friend.'”

I also tracked down a woman in London who had been paid off after an unwanted sexual encounter with Weinstein. She was terrified to speak because of her non-disclosure agreement, but at least we had evidence of a pay-off.

The story I reported never ran.

After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted.

I was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known. I knew he was a major advertiser in the Times, and that he was a powerful person overall.

But I had the facts, and this was the Times. Right?

Wrong. The story was stripped of any reference to sexual favors or coercion and buried on the inside of the Culture section, an obscure story about Miramax firing an Italian executive. Who cared?

The Times’ then-culture editor Jon Landman, now an editor-at-large for Bloomberg, thought the story was unimportant, asking me why it mattered.

“He’s not a publicly elected official,” he told me.  I explained, to no avail, that a public company would certainly have a problem with a procurer on the payroll for hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the time, Disney told me they had no idea Lombardo existed.

A spokeswoman for the Times had no comment on Sunday.

I was devastated after traveling to two countries and overcoming immense challenges to confirm at least part of the story that wound up running last week, more than a decade later. I had met in person with a woman who said she’d been paid off for an unwanted sexual encounter and thus proved she existed.

Update: Several have asked why I did not pursue the story once I started TheWrap. Fair question. Five years later, 2009, the moment had passed to go back and write the missing piece about Lombardo, who was no longer on the scene and whose story had been half-published in the Times. Miramax was no longer part of the Walt Disney Company. And I did not have sufficient evidence to write about a pay-off, even though I knew one existed. My focus was on raising money, building a website and starting a media company. In the subsequent years since then I did not hear about further pay-offs or harassment and thought the issue was in the past. Weinstein had made a big effort, supposedly, to curb his temper and behavior, which was reflected in other areas of his public life.

Today I wonder: If this story had come to light at the time, would Weinstein have continued his behavior for another decade, evidenced by the scathing 2015 memo by former staffer Lauren O’Connor unearthed by Kantor and Twohey.

Writes Rutenberg: “Mr. Weinstein had his own enablers. He built his empire on a pile of positive press clippings that, before the internet era, could have reached the moon.”

The New York Times was one of those enablers. So pardon me for having a deeply ambivalent response about the current heroism of the Times.

Editors note: A previous version of this story stated that Jon Landman was a deputy managing editor at the Times. He left that position in 2013 to become an editor at large at Bloomberg View. TheWrap regrets the error.

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Harvey Weinstein Speaks: My Apology Is Sincere, But I’m Still Suing NY Times Fri, 06 Oct 2017 02:06:34 +0000 Sharon Waxman In an interview with TheWrap, disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein said he was sincere in his apology for sexual misconduct, but that he still intended to sue The New York Times for its bombshell story about his sexual misconduct over the years.

“I mean every word of that apology,” he told TheWrap. “The reason I am suing the New York Times is they didn’t give me enough time to respond.”

Weinstein and one of his lawyers, Lisa Bloom, both told TheWrap that they received the detail of allegations of sexual misconduct two days ago, and were told they had until 1 p.m. today to respond.

“We said, ‘What is it, tell us the allegations, we will respond. Harvey is going to be admitting some stuff,'” said Bloom, who was with Weinstein in his New York office.

“Two days ago, after begging, they gave us a couple dozen allegations that spanned 30 years and a dozen countries. They said we have until 1 pm today. We said ‘Why?’ They never said.”

“We are confident in the accuracy and fairness of our reporting,” a New York Times spokesperson tells TheWrap. “Mr. Weinstein had ample time to respond to specific allegations, which dealt with events that he had first-hand knowledge of, before our story published. We published his entire response, which acknowledges a history he now regrets. But the real issue is whether the story is accurate. Mr. Weinstein has not challenged any facts in our story.”

Weinstein and Bloom said they had no intention of suing any of the alleged victims. “We have made a decision we are not going after any women or accusers,” Bloom said. “But we have witnesses who said that some of this didn’t happen.”

The Times broke a lengthy investigative piece on Thursday alleging three decades of sexual misconduct by the Hollywood mogul, and said that eight women had received monetary settlements over the years in exchange for their silence.

Many who read Weinstein’s mea culpa, which included an unusual declaration that he would devote his energy to go after the National Rifle Association, as mitigated by the fact that his attorneys announced plans to sue the paper.

In apologizing, Weinstein said: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.”

He added: “I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah.”

Bloom, whose advocacy for Weinstein has raised eyebrows since she is best known for representing accusers in high-profile sexual harassment cases, said the two were unrelated.

Weinstein said that he wrote the apology himself, contrary to a report from inside his own company that said Bloom wrote it.

“Harvey dictated it and I sent it right out,” said Bloom, whose book “Suspicion Nation” is being adapted by TWC into a TV miniseries.

The Weinstein Company board was meeting on Thursday night to decide the CEO’s fate.



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Inside Weinstein Company Crisis: Execs Blindsided, Harvey Paid Settlements Himself (Exclusive) Thu, 05 Oct 2017 23:38:47 +0000 Sharon Waxman For the past two weeks, Harvey Weinstein has been hunkered down with lawyers, advisers and supporters trying to fight his way out of career-threatening allegations that he engaged in decades of sexual misconduct.

Despite a stilted statement of contrition on Thursday combined with an unusual vow to go after the National Rifle Association, Weinstein is said to be combative, unwilling to accept responsibility and eager to go after The New York Times for its bombshell report that at least eight women received monetary settlements after making claims of inappropriate behavior by him over the last several decades.

Weinstein’s statement of contrition was written by lawyer Lisa Bloom and not by Weinstein himself or anyone at the company, according to a company executive who declined to be identified.

Bloom did not respond to requests for comment; The Weinstein Company declined to comment.

Inside the company’s New York headquarters on Thursday, executives and other staffers were said to be in a state of shock. The news was all the more upsetting since many top Weinstein executives are women.

According to an individual familiar with the situation, senior executives  including Harvey’s brother and co-founder, Bob, were “floored” by many of the details in The New York Times story — including actress Ashley Judd’s claims that Harvey had sexually propositioned her two decades ago.

While many believed he strayed outside his marriages, the individual said, senior executives were not aware of the many payoffs to make allegations of sexual harassment go away.

The company took seriously female staffer Lauren O’Connor’s 2015 memo alleging sexual advances, the insider said, but then dropped the matter when the complaint was withdrawn within 48 hours.

At an emergency meeting of TWC board on Tuesday, board members pressed one of Weinstein’s lawyers for how many payoffs there had been over the  year and were told “eight to 12,” the individual said. The New York Times only cited eight payoffs.

At that meeting, the board decided to ask Weinstein to take a leave of absence, the individual said.

All the payoffs were made by Weinstein personally, not by the company, according to the insider — which might explain why top executives were unaware of the scope of the issue.

When the company first learned of the Times’ investigation several weeks ago, the individual said Weinstein was advised to get ahead of the story by writing an op-ed and acknowledging past misconduct.

Instead, the insider said the mogul decided to hole up with his lawyers David Boies, Lisa Bloom and Charles Harder and try to fight the story — a combative stance to public controversy that has previously served him well.

According to at least two executives, Weinstein has not been seen at his Tribeca headquarters in about two weeks.

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At TheGrill 2017, A Tipping Point: Tech Platforms Have Arrived on the Shores of Content Mon, 02 Oct 2017 01:13:46 +0000 Sharon Waxman Those who are riveted by the spectacle in Washington, D.C., may be missing the moment happening in entertainment and technology.

Some time this year streaming and tech platforms went from distant travelers just over the horizon to well-supplied invaders storming the beaches of Hollywood.

This year Facebook announced plans to invest $1 billion in content. Apple has done the same, and both seem likely to grow their investments. AT&T is about to swallow Time Warner, a crown jewel of the content world, on the logic that Ma Bell phones are not such a great business anymore. Good call.

Disney has placed its bet on a streaming service and removed its content from Netflix, announcing itself as a competitor in this space while acknowledging that ESPN has an uncertain future on cable.

Netflix continues to grow at a robust pace, its stock price showing remarkable staying power and market cap now at $78 billion — about the same as Time Warner’s.

And Hulu, a streaming service — albeit one backed by traditional media companies — won the Emmy with its first ambitious original series, “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The new world has been a long time coming, but it seems to be here. The outlines of the new entertainment ecosystem are becoming clear.

Distribution matters more than anything, and it is now the tech platforms that own the present and future of how content gets delivered. Platforms like Apple, with its ubiquitous smartphones, Facebook with its 2 billion daily users, and Amazon with its reach into every household in the nation, have scale that no theater chain can rival. Cable networks are holding on to their customers for dear life while chasing the streaming audience with their own new platforms.

I daresay this ecosystem will look very different five years from now, and what we now call “tech companies” may well look like entertainment companies as they move into content.

Is the change good? Depends on who’s asking.

That makes it a flush moment for screenwriters, showrunners, producers and actors. Those with the best content are in a strong position. But it makes it a moment of high-risk transition for the studios and networks.

At this year’s Grill, being held Monday and Tuesday of this week at The Montage hotel, we will be digging into this fundamental shift that is happening before our eyes. The savviest players have already begun their moves, and we have many of them here at the conference.

We will be talking to producers, marketers and leaders of the content companies to hear how they are navigating these changes on a daily basis.

One thing seems certain: The timing could not be more critical for a gathering of thought leaders. And the next 12 months will be decisive in defining the contours of what the content industry looks like for decades to come.

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Let’s Stop Calling Hugh Hefner a Feminist Hero Thu, 28 Sep 2017 19:29:21 +0000 Sharon Waxman Now that he’s gone, can we talk about who Hugh Hefner was?

(Spoiler: If you loved the guy, or dreamed of being him, don’t read any further.)

I’m sure it was really cool when Hef was in his heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, all those girls in bunny outfits and guys in suave smoking jackets. By the time I came of age in the 1980s, Hugh Hefner was no longer relevant. It was the age of Jazzercise and Jane Fonda’s workout videos, while in the porn world the hard core stuff had taken over.

I started to pay attention in the late 1990s during Hef’s comeback tour. He was in his 70s by then and managed to convince everyone — including some of my editors — that he was the original feminist. Hollywood alphas and wannabe alphas flocked to the newly energized Playboy Mansion out of a sense of nostalgia and a desire to touch the legend.

The post-feminist logic was that Playboy was always about championing sexual freedom for both men and women, not just for the men who were being served by girls in itty-bitty outfits showing off grandioso breasts. Feminist Camille Paglia pronounced him “one of the principal architects of the modern sexual revolution.”

This point was proven, apparently, by Hef trotting out a half-dozen blonde girlfriends a quarter his age. (Were all of them named Brandy or was that just my imagination?) They gave “interviews” in which they talked about how in love they all were.

In an interview I did with Hef in 1999 for The Washington Post, he was loving this legacy:

“This is the best time of my life,” Hefner says in an interview a few days after the party. He is in his library, where an oil painting of him dressed as a Renaissance prince hangs above the fireplace. He’s in Hefwear — that same burgundy silk pajama jacket over black silk pants — and, despite jowls, is still a handsome man.

“The golden years for me are the golden years,” he exults. “Society has been taking stock. . . . I’ve been getting recognition. Celebration. As good as my life looks from the outside, on the inside it’s better.”

But as I dug into the reporting on that story, I found a lot of things that were odd, and not feminist at all. Some of his personal sexual habits seemed almost cruel, and his personal predilections weird.

As I reported then, Hef would keep videos of his sexual encounters, and play them on two big screen TVs while he was having sex with new partners. Even when the women objected.

Equally odd, he kept stacks and stacks of legal pads chronicling every single one of his sexual acts.

“There were stacks of them,” his live-in girlfriend of many years Carrie Leigh told me at the time. “On the left, it would say the names of the people. Next to that, it would say the type of sex . . . and to the right of that, he would grade it. A-plus-plus-plus was the highest grade, down to C-minus.”

When I asked Hef about this during our interview — an awkward encounter, as I recall —  he said it was totally normal and maybe I was the uptight one. “I’m a writer-editor. I’ve done that kind of thing since early childhood,” he told me.

But honestly, what does it say about the sexual confidence of someone who needed to write every act down and give his partner a grade? That’s not very feminist to me.

I don’t care now and didn’t care then that Hef loved beautiful blonde women a fraction of his age. The women who chose to be Playmates or his sexual partners or both may have loved their choices. Or they may have felt used, but that was on them.

But I object to calling him an icon of women’s sexual liberation, and I object to calling him a feminist.

Hef seemed to me to be an Epicurean in the formal sense of the philosophy, embracing experience and sensuality in a rebuke to the harsh Puritanism of American society. In this I agree with him — we are very uptight about sex in this country.

But Hef’s lifestyle was all about the man’s pleasure. This does not make him a feminist.

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Facebook and the Future of Democracy, News, Free Expression and All That Stuff Sun, 24 Sep 2017 15:46:32 +0000 Sharon Waxman Facebook has a “D.C. problem,” says everybody: the Washington, D.C.-based news sites and pundits, Axios and Politico and Rachel Maddow.

Everybody’s up in arms that Facebook took months to disclose that it received $100,000 in political ads from Russian fronts during the 2016 election. Facebook finally fessed up to this fact in September — eight months after having denied it.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week rushed to offer an empathetic video in which he confessed that “for a while we had found no evidence of fake accounts linked to Russia running ads” but the platform suddenly found 3,000 fake ads that have since been handed over to Congress.

And the site is planning to “to make political advertising more transparent,” in Zuckerberg’s words.

I’m starting to have a real problem with this. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are nice and all, and built a behemoth monopoly over our time and Madison Avenue’s ad dollars with us barely noticing how they dominate our news feed and now our elections.

It’s not even clear that Facebook has noticed this.

We are deep into the twilight zone here. Facebook doesn’t have a “DC problem.” The nation has a Facebook problem. Facebook has a Facebook problem.

Like Google and Amazon, Facebook has become a monopoly, with its 2 billion monthly users. To understand the scale of this power, the sheer, stunning breadth of this platform, pay attention to this paragraph from John Lanchester in the London Review of Books:

“Facebook’s biggest rival for logged-in users is YouTube, owned by its deadly rival Alphabet (the company formerly known as Google), in second place with 1.5 billion monthly users. Three of the next four biggest apps, or services, or whatever one wants to call them, are WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, with 1.2 billion, 1.2 billion, and 700 million users respectively (the Chinese app WeChat is the other one, with 889 million). Those three entities have something in common: they are all owned by Facebook. No wonder the company is the fifth most valuable in the world, with a market capitalisation of $445 billion.”

Monopolies are something that democracies and capitalist societies have long deemed problematic. But they are a sought-after end in Silicon Valley, as tech billionaire and journalism-slayer Peter Thiel says in his book, “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.” He thinks they’re what’s needed in a technologically innovative society.

I happen to think monopolies are dangerous in a democracy because they allow for a concentration of power — however benign and initially well-meaning — in which lack of accountability leads to abuses and arrogance.

Facebook is in the midst of that right now.

News publishers are among the most important victims of the monopoly Facebook has created. Free and fair elections may well be the next.

In a powerfully incisive analysis of how traditional publishers have crumbled before the power of Facebook and Google called “How to Boil a Frog,” media analyst Kunal Gupta observes how clueless publishers have been party to Facebook slowly but surely taking all their business.

From ‘How to Boil a Frog’ by Polar

“The troubling insight from my own research is that Facebook has a repeated pattern of inviting you in by providing a benefit, and then once you are hooked, turning up the heat at the next thing you know, you’re being served as the next course,” he wrote.

“Publishers have been motivated by short-term outcomes such as growing referral traffic, monthly uniques and delivering more audience to high-valued branded content destinations. Facebook, on the other hand, is guided by a long-term vision, where they control and influence who gets access to their audience. “

What does this have to do with Russia hacking the election? Facebook’s massive influence is the commonality, along with the lack of accountability from the havoc that has resulted.

After encouraging publishers to move all their readers to Facebook, Facebook essentially takes all the ad revenue driven by content creators. Their attitude seems to be: Wait, what did we do?

Similarly, Facebook has shirked its responsibility for vastly altering the political landscape. The polarization that has beset the U.S. electorate is a result, at least partially, of the algorithmic approach to feeding people stuff they seem to want and reinforcing their existing beliefs. Wait, Facebook says, did we do something? The company really wants you to know that its intentions were super good.

I can’t say with confidence that Facebook is a cynical company that has set out to undermine legitimate news publishers by powering the proliferation of fake news. But I can say that it has done very little to own the fact that it has allowed this to happen.

All of my sources knowledgeable about doings at Facebook suggest that there’s been a deliberate head-in-the-sand approach to recent events. The company’s value has exploded on Wall Street. It has insistently wanted to be a tech company and washed its hands of any responsibility for the content on its platform.

That time now comes to an end.

Like other media and entertainment giants — including broadcasters that have to hew to standards at the FCC to be granted their licenses — Facebook is in fact a content provider. It is the biggest content provider in the world, with the exception of Google.

And now Congress is paying attention.

Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Mark Warner (Va.) have circulated a “Dear Colleague letter,” obtained by Axios, seeking co-sponsors for legislation that “would formalize, and expand, the transparency commitments Facebook has made.”

Conservatives are even more upset even though it was Hillary Clinton who paid the price for those fake news ads. “Conservatives in Washington and around the country, famous for pushing back on government, plan to be increasingly vocal in arguing that self-regulation isn’t working with the tech giants,” Axios’ Mike Allen wrote last week.

source: How to Boil a Frog, by Polar

Writes Lanchester:

“For all the corporate uplift of its mission statement, Facebook is a company whose essential premise is misanthropic. It is perhaps for that reason that Facebook, more than any other company of its size, has a thread of malignity running through its story….

… In the open air, fake news can be debated and exposed; on Facebook, if you aren’t a member of the community being served the lies, you’re quite likely never to know that they are in circulation. It’s crucial to this that Facebook has no financial interest in telling the truth. No company better exemplifies the internet-age dictum that if the product is free, you are the product. Facebook’s customers aren’t the people who are on the site: its customers are the advertisers who use its network and who relish its ability to direct ads to receptive audiences.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Did Mark Zuckerberg Successfully 'Diffuse the Potential Explosion' Around Facebook's Ad Biz?

Facebook to Turn Over 3,000 Russia-Bought Ads to Congress

How Facebook Has Swiped Digital Ad Revenue From Publishers (Guest Blog)

Facebook and Fake News: Flagging Posts Does Little to Combat Lies

Facebook Is in the Hot Seat From Both Dems and GOP on Russian Ads

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