Via Financial Times

ViacomCBS has agreed to buy a 49 per cent stake in Miramax, the film studio co-founded by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, in a $375m deal.

The transaction will give the US group, owner of Paramount Pictures, access to Miramax’s library of nearly 700 films, including Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and No Country for Old Men.

As part of the investment, ViacomCBS will pay $150m in cash to Miramax owner beIN media group, which will retain control of the studio, whose library of films has produced 68 Oscar winners. ViacomCBS said it would invest another $225m over the next five years to fund new films and shows.

Consolidation in the entertainment business has left smaller media groups seeking safety in scale. Viacom and CBS recombined this year but still are relative minnows compared to Disney after its acquisition of Fox, and AT&T after gobbling up Time Warner.

Traditional players in the film industry are rushing to acquire rights for movies and television series, as they battle with deep-pocketed streaming services such as Netflix.

Bob Bakish, president and chief executive officer of ViacomCBS, said that the investment will expand its “already substantial pool of IP at a time when demand for premium content is only accelerating.”

Qatari broadcaster beIN, one of the world’s largest owners of exclusive sports rights, pushed into the film industry in 2016 with the $420m acquisition of Miramax.

Founded in 1979 by Mr Weinstein and his brother Bob, Miramax revolutionised independent cinema with a string of critical and commercial hits in the 1980s and 1990s, prompting Hollywood’s big studios to create their own “independent” divisions in response.

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The brothers stayed with the company when it was acquired by Walt Disney in 1993 for $60m, and left in 2005 to start The Weinstein Company. The Weinsteins bid on Miramax when Disney sold it in 2010, but were trumped by a $660m offer from the investor consortium that included Colony and the QIA. That consortium subsequently sold Miramax to beIN.

Harvey Weinstein has since fallen from grace, after scores of women in 2017 began stepping forward with allegations of sexual abuse.

Earlier this month, Mr Weinstein and his bankrupt film studio agreed in principle a $45m settlement with a group of women who accused him of sexual assault. It does not cover a criminal case against Mr Weinstein, which will go to trial next month in New York. Mr Weinstein was accused of five sex-crime charges, including rape, and was arrested in May 2018. He has pleaded not guilty.