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Disney, Weinsteins Near Breakup Deal

Times Staff Writer

Walt Disney Co. and Miramax Film Corp. co-founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein are putting the finishing touches on the dissolution of their Hollywood marriage.

After several weeks of intense negotiations, the two sides have reached agreement on the main terms of their divorce, according to sources close to the negotiations. The deal could be announced as early as this week.

“It’s pretty much ironed out right now,” one source said.

Representatives of Disney and Miramax declined to comment.

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The split would end a successful but tumultuous relationship that began in 1993 when Disney bought Miramax, then a fledgling New York-based independent film company, from the Weinstein brothers for about $70 million.

The liaison produced a string of hit movies. This year alone Miramax amassed 20 Academy Award nominations, including two for best picture for “The Aviator” and “Finding Neverland.”

But relations between the Weinsteins and Burbank-based Disney have been sour for several years, strained by disputes over film budgets, creative autonomy and the brothers’ compensation.

Since the talks between the two sides intensified last Thanksgiving, bitter feelings and strong personalities have caused numerous delays and setbacks in the negotiations.

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The latest push to hammer out a deal came last week when Harvey Weinstein began a new round of discussions with Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook. The brothers were in Los Angeles to attend the Oscars.

Attorneys for Disney and Miramax were set to review a draft agreement over the weekend with final-stage negotiations resuming today.

The proposed split-up agreement calls for Disney to pay Miramax co-chiefs Harvey and Bob Weinstein -- whose contract with the entertainment giant expires in September -- more than $100 million.

The payout would cover their bonuses for 2004 and 2005 along with their share of future profits in Miramax films that got started while the brothers were in control.

The brothers, who have been raising financing on Wall Street to step out on their own, would get to keep the Dimension Films name, the one behind such hit series as “Scary Movie” and “Spy Kids.”

Under the terms of the proposed deal, they would also co-finance some films with Disney, although specifically how that would work has yet to be determined.

For its part, Disney would continue to own Miramax’s film library of more than 800 titles, which includes such Oscar-winning hits as “Shakespeare in Love,” “Chicago” and “The English Patient.”

Already, Disney has been making plans to refashion Miramax into a smaller and leaner studio similar to the specialty film units of other major entertainment companies.

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Times staff writer Claudia Eller contributed to this report.


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