Weintraub Creates New Entertainment Firm

Times Staff Writer

Jerry Weintraub, the movie-producing entrepreneur who quit United Artists last year after a five-month stint as chairman, announced Monday that he has formed a new entertainment company.

Weintraub Entertainment Group said it has obtained financing commitments totaling $461 million, including $143 million in private debt and equity offerings and $145 million in lines of credit from a group of banks led by Bank of America.

In addition, the new company said it has negotiated agreements worth $173 million in the "pre-sale" of its movie and television productions in various markets.

"This is the most highly financed entertainment company that's come down the pike," Weintraub declared in an interview in his 20th floor office in West Los Angeles.

The 49-year-old executive said he has invested $11 million of his personal wealth in the new venture to retain 78% of the voting control. Weintraub, who has produced such motion pictures as "The Karate Kid," "Diner" and "Nashville," said he intends to devote his full business schedule to the enterprise, and has entered into a seven-year contract.

After his abrupt departure from United Artists last April, Weintraub negotiated a contract settlement that netted a profit of nearly $10 million on United Artists stock he sold back to the company. He received an additional $1.2 million for his interest in certain entertainment properties.

But Weintraub insisted Monday that he is not launching a new company to demonstrate his abilities to Kirk Kerkorian, United Artists' controlling shareholder.

"Kirk and I never had a fight," he said, when asked about his abrupt departure last year. "You can't have two bosses in one building. . . . He wanted certain things that I wasn't interested in."

Weintraub's largest investors include Coca-Cola Co., which invested $14 million for 12.1% of the common stock. Coca-Cola will control just 2.6% of the voting shares, however, Weintraub said.

Weintraub has entered into an agreement to have the company's first 20 films distributed theatrically by Columbia Pictures, a Coca-Cola subsidiary, in the United States, Canada and most foreign territories, excluding Australia and New Zealand. Home video rights to those films have been assigned to RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video.

Among the executives identified Monday were:

- Kenneth Kleinberg, 44, president and chief operating officer. Kleinberg was formerly a partner with the law firm of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, where he headed its motion picture and television department from 1979 to 1985.

- Dennis Pope, chief financial officer, a former partner at Arthur Andersen & Co. where he oversaw its worldwide entertainment industries practice.

- Guy McElwaine, executive vice president and chairman of Weintraub's motion picture division. McElwaine is a former chairman and chief executive of Columbia Pictures.

- Lynne Wasserman, vice president of corporate affairs, who was of counsel to the Beverly Hills law firm of Levine, Schreiber and Leonard for the past five years. She is the daughter of Lew Wasserman, the longtime chairman and chief executive of MCA Inc., which owns Universal Pictures.

Among Weintraub's directors are: former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, former U.S. Atty. Gen. William French Smith and Louis Bantle, chairman of the United States Tobacco Co.

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