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Harvey Weinstein on 'indefinite leave' as film company investigates sexual harassment claims

A New York Times exposé chronicled allegations said to have taken place over the course of decades.

Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Image: Richard Shotwell/AP/Press Association Images

MOVIE MOGUL HARVEY Weinstein is on indefinite leave from the company he co-founded while an internal investigation into numerous sexual harassment allegations against him is completed, the Weinstein Co’s board of directors has announced.

“We strongly endorse Harvey Weinstein’s already announced decision to take an indefinite leave of absence from the Company, commencing today,” the board said in a statement.

“As Harvey has said, it is important for him to get the professional help for the problems he has acknowledged. Next steps will depend on Harvey’s therapeutic process, the outcome of the board’s independent investigation and Harvey’s own personal decisions.”

The announcement came a day after the New York Times reported that the co-chairman of the Weinstein Co has over the years reached at least eight legal settlements with women over alleged harassment.

Lawyer John Kiernan of the firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP was named the head of the investigation. The Weinstein Co board did not give a time frame for when the investigation would be completed.

“We believe it is important to learn the full truth regarding the article’s very serious accusations, in the interests of the company, its shareholders and its employees,” the company said.

The statement was signed by four board members: co-chairman Bob Weinstein, who is Harvey Weinstein’s brother; Tarak Ben Ammar; Lance Maerov and Richard Koenigsberg.

The statement was not signed by several businessmen who were part of the Weinstein Co board before the story broke. They did not reply to requests for comment.

Board member Dirk Ziff, a billionaire investor, resigned on Thursday.

Representatives did not immediately respond to questions about Weinstein’s status with the film company. A person familiar with the board’s deliberations but unauthorised to speak publicly said yesterday that Weinstein would be suspended from the company.

However the official statement only said it “strongly endorsed” Weinstein’s decision to take the indefinite leave of absence.

Weinstein’s lawyers also did not respond to requests for comment.

Oscar-winner

Weinstein has had a powerful perch in Hollywood for three decades, producing films like Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love, for which he won an Oscar. But his stature has diminished in recent years and his company has suffered from a string of executive exits, layoffs mounting lawsuits and delayed releases.

The New York Times exposé chronicled allegations against Weinstein from actor Ashley Judd and former employees at both the Weinstein Co and Weinstein’s former company, Miramax, over the course of several decades. The report made an enormous impact felt throughout the movie industry and elsewhere.

“This abuse of power must be called out, however powerful the abuser, and we must publicly stand with those brave enough to come forward,” wrote actress America Ferrera on Twitter. Many others, including Lena Dunham and Brie Larson, also added their voices to the uproar.

The board of directors has pressured Weinstein to step down from the company he helped create, a person familiar with the board’s deliberations who was not authorised to speak publicly said. Weinstein has resisted, hoping to weather the storm. Discussions between Weinstein and the board have been heated and contentious, the person said.

Leadership of the Weinstein Co will be assumed by Bob Weinstein and David Glasser, the company’s chief operating officer.

Weinstein issued a lengthy statement on Thursday that acknowledged causing “a lot of pain”. He also asked for “a second chance”. But Weinstein and his lawyers, including Charles J Harder, have criticised the New York Times’ report in statements and interviews, though neither has referenced anything specific.

“We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting,” a New York Times spokesperson said in a statement.

Mr Weinstein was aware and able to respond to specific allegations in our story before publication. In fact, we published his response in full.

In an interview with the Associated Press yesterday, Weinstein’s lawyer Lisa Bloom both defended Weinstein and acknowledged he’d been “stupid”.

She saluted the women who have come forward to allege wrongdoing but said many allegations were overblown and consisted of Weinstein telling a woman she “looked cute without [her] glasses”.

Democrats

Congressional Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, yesterday began giving charities thousands of dollars in donations they had received from the disgraced Hollywood titan.

Weinstein and his family have given more than $1.4 million (about €1.2 million) in political contributions since the 1992 election cycle, nearly all of it to Democratic lawmakers, candidates and their allies, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The biggest beneficiary of funds from Weinstein and his family was the Democratic National Committee, which received about $800,000 (about €682,000) in several of its accounts, according to the centre. Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said the party plans to give more than $30,000 (about €25,500) to charities Emily’s List, Emerge America and Higher Heights.

Rutgers University says it will not return a $100,000 (about €85,000) donation from movie mogul Harvey Weinstein for a position named after women’s rights advocate Gloria Steinem. The university Weinstein’s donation was one of more than 425 that has been used to fund Gloria Steinem Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at the school.

The school says it can think of “no better use” of the donation than to apply it to the position and its work.

Read: Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein apologises after sex harassment claims

Read: Anti-nuclear weapons campaign wins Nobel Peace Prize for ‘groundbreaking’ work

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