Weinstein Co. orders investigation of Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment allegations

Harvey Weinstein’s film and television company has hired a law firm to investigate the sexual harassment allegations against the indie film impresario. But the Weinstein Co.’s board of directors stopped short of ousting the co-founder.

Instead, the directors expressed support for Weinstein’s decision to take an indefinite leave of absence from the production company and seek professional help.

“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 Friday. “Next steps will depend on Harvey’s therapeutic progress, the outcome of the Board’s independent investigation, and Harvey’s own personal decisions.”

The board has retained attorney John Kiernan of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP to investigate the allegations and report to a special committee of independent board directors, the board said.

The board of directors discussed Weinstein’s future at his namesake firm in a Thursday night meeting by phone.

The film pioneer, who is responsible for Oscar-winning movies such as “Shakespeare in Love,” already said Thursday that he would take a leave of absence. What remained unclear is whether the board ultimately would decide to terminate Weinstein, which some in Hollywood have demanded.

But the allegations may have already irreparably damaged his ability to do business in Hollywood by attracting talent or campaigning for prestigious movies during Oscar season.

In a sign of infighting, three company directors have quit the board in the wake of the allegations. They include billionaire investor Dirk Ziff, a managing partner at Ziff Capital Partners, who resigned before the Thursday meeting. Ziff, 53, is co-owner of the World Surf League.

Board members Marc Lasry and Tim Sarnoff also resigned, according to a person close to the company. The exiting board members did not return calls seeking comment.

The company’s statement was undersigned by Harvey Weinstein’s brother and co-founder Bob Weinstein, and three remaining board members: Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov and Richard Koenigsberg.

During the meeting, which lasted hours, Weinstein made his case to the board to save his job. He also said he wanted to do the right thing for the company, according to a knowledgeable person.

The board called the meeting the same day the New York Times published a report detailing decades of sexual harassment accusations against Weinstein. The accusers included Hollywood actresses such as Ashley Judd and former employees at the Weinstein Co. and his previous company, Miramax.

Weinstein has reached at least eight legal settlements with women over harassment allegations, the article said.

“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 board said.

On Thursday, Weinstein expressed regret for his actions even as his lawyer threatened to sue the New York Times, alleging defamation.

“I so respect all women and regret what happened. I hope that my actions will speak louder than words,” Weinstein said in a statement. “I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt, and I plan to do right by all of them.”

Harvey and Bob Weinstein founded Miramax in 1979. That company was responsible for critically beloved movies including “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Pulp Fiction” and “The English Patient.” They sold the company to the Walt Disney Co. in 1993 and left 12 years later to pursue their own venture, ending an acrimonious relationship.

Several women told the New York Times that Harvey Weinstein sought massages and gave unsolicited ones. The accusers told the paper Weinstein was naked during some of the encounters. His alleged behavior had long been discussed by entertainment industry players.

Co-chairman Bob Weinstein and president and chief operating officer David Glasser will lead the company in Harvey Weinstein’s absence. Glasser has served as Harvey Weinstein’s right-hand man for years.

The allegations against Weinstein come amid a long period of struggles for the company. Its most promising candidate this awards season is “Wind River,” an acclaimed crime drama starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. But the company’s other recent films have failed at the box office, including the Alicia Vikander historical drama “Tulip Fever” and the Matthew McConaughey movie “Gold.”

The company on Friday withdrew from Outfest's Legacy Awards, where the company was set to be honored as a corporate trailblazer by the LGBTQ festival later this month.

“We do not want to overshadow the extraordinary achievements of the other honorees,” the company said in a statement.

Times staff writer Tre’vell Anderson contributed to this article.

ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

Twitter: @rfaughnder


UPDATES:

4:55 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the Weinstein Co., and additional details about the board meeting.

This article was originally published at 1:55 p.m.

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