Miramax talks expected to extend through the weekend

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Exclusive negotiations between the Walt Disney Co. and Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who are backed by supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, over the potential acquisition of Miramax Films are expected to stretch through the weekend, people with knowledge of the discussions said.

Meanwhile, competing bidders Alec and Tom Gores are awaiting the outcome and keeping their bid on the table for the moment, according to a person familiar with the situation. A third bid, from an offshore corporation being advised by beleaguered financier David Bergstein, also remains in the wings.

Disney hopes to wrap up a deal with the Weinsteins by next week, said a person close to the situation. Although the Weinsteins, who founded Miramax in 1979 and sold it to Disney in 1993, remain highly motivated to win back the specialty label, the negotiations still could break down.

Even though there’s pressure to sweeten the deal, a person close to Burkle says the investor won’t overpay for the asset. Burkle, who brings the money to the contemplated purchase through his investment firm, the Yucaipa Companies, doesn’t have the same emotional attachment to Miramax as do the Weinstein brothers, said one person who knows him. To Burkle, it’s an investment that is expected to generate a good return, and not, as it is for the Weinsteins, a bid to reclaim the company.


The Burkle-led bid, which was $600 million for the 600-film library, however, is expected to rise to $625 million with the addition of Miramax’s remaining unreleased films, which include the animated ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’ and ‘The Switch,’ a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston about a 40-year-old woman who uses a turkey baster to become pregnant.

Updated 6 p.m.: A person familiar with the deal said some, but not all, of the unreleased films will be included in the sale.

Under the arrangement being discussed, Miramax’s new owners would pay the marketing and distribution costs of releasing the movies and stand to reap most of the box-office revenue -- after paying Disney a 10% distribution fee.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski and Claudia Eller