UPDATE: After this post went live, a spokesperson for The Weinstein Company disputed TMZ’s claim, writing, “The interpretation of the contract is not correct. The contract speaks for itself.”
The representative declined to go into specifics regarding the disagreement.
You probably want to dismiss TMZ as a gossip site obsessed with reality TV stars, but it has become a reliable source for legitimate items about people who happen to be rich and famous. Harvey Levin broke the news of Prince’s death, for example, and he also correctly reported on the heart attack that later led to Tom Petty’s passing. Check out this 2016 New Yorker profile if you have doubts.
This is relevant only because yesterday afternoon TMZ ran a story about the contract Harvey Weinstein signed in 2015 with his own company. More importantly for our audience, the report names WPP executive vice president and head of North American acquisitions Lance Maerov as the person who negotiated the specifics of that contract.
According to the somewhat inflammatory account, the decision to fire Weinstein after The New York Times and The New Yorker published stories about his alleged decades of sexual misbehavior may have been illegal as per the agreement in question. This is because the deal essentially said that any accusations of misbehavior made against Weinstein would be OK as long as they were settled.
According to the unnamed TMZ writer who claims to have seen the contract first hand, Weinstein could keep his job after being sued an indefinite number of times for sexual harassment or other such “misconduct.” He would only be required to make specific reimbursements to the company.
They ran as follows (again, allegedly): $250K for the first such incident, $500K for the second, $750K for the third, and $1 million for each instance thereafter. These payments would amount to a “cure” for the conduct in question.
The report then claims that the contract named a very small number of specific offenses that could lead to Weinstein losing his job: an indictment or conviction for a specific crime or a finding of “material fraud against [The Weinstein Company].”
In other words, as long as he paid agreed-upon settlements to his accusers, he could theoretically retain his job no matter how many women filed suit against him.
This is relevant to WPP because the company has been a minority shareholder in The Weinstein Company since 2005, and Maerov is one of the few remaining members of its board of directors along with Weinstein’s own brother. Earlier this week, Adweek ran a story noting that WPP is in the process of considering whether to stay on the board and continue its relationship with the company. At the time, a spokesperson for the holding group said that this decision depends upon the future makeup of that board, implying that Weinstein needs to bring on more women to help oversee its business or risk losing WPP as a partner.
As we also noted on Tuesday, the company has begun reaching out to agencies in the interest of rebranding itself.
WPP declined to comment about the TMZ report today.