When Harvey Weinstein was finally held accountable for his decades of sexually predatory behavior, one consequence he faced was being forced to step down from The Weinstein Company, which produces, licenses, and owns much of the content we’ve all been consuming for most of our lives. Weinstein having to give up his role is obviously a good thing — except that it means the Harvey Weinstein scandal might mean the end of Project Runway, various film and TV projects, and also further hurt victims.
By no means are we suggesting that not knowing about the future of Project Runway is in any way comparable to the trauma that Weinstein’s victims endured. Not at all.
But the financial and business fallout of Weinstein’s alleged crimes are a textbook example of what happens when powerful people are held accountable for their actions, and a glimpse into the company’s motive for keeping this terrible open secret at bay for so long.
Once people started listening to Weinstein’s victims last fall and the scope of his sexual misconduct was laid bare in the media, Weinstein stepped down from the company and people started to pull their various projects with The Weinstein Company (TWC) so as not to be associated with the alleged sexual predator. The company scrambled to work out a deal to sell itself to a group of investors, but then New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a suit against the studio, since many of Weinstein’s assaults took place in the state, citing that TWC had “violated numerous New York civil rights, human rights, and business laws” because of Weinstein’s alleged “unrelenting sexual harassment, intimidation, and discrimination” in the workplace.”
That, as you may imagine, made the studio a hard sell. TWC filed for bankruptcy in early March.
So what does this have to do with Project Runway?
TWC owns the license to Project Runway and all of its franchises, while A+E (which owns Lifetime) is the network that airs it. TWC’s bankruptcy filings show that A+E sent a letter in January to the company ending its contract with the studio. It wrote:
Basically, the network, which had previously renewed the show for two more seasons, doesn’t want anything to do with Project Runway if it had anything to do with Weinstein. There are a lot of projects that TWC was working on that are going to ultimately be put on hold or killed completely as a part of this bankruptcy deal, but Project Runway is an extra special case. A Los Angeles Times report had several women on record stating that Weinstein used Project Runway as a “pipeline to women,” which is so foul. The report noted that he “used his fashion business ties and ownership of Project Runway as enticements or pretexts for meetings.”
That’s just gross to think about. A man who owns the rights to one of everyone’s favorite reality competition shows using it as a way to get aspiring designers and models into his orbit. It sort of taints the whole thing, right?
A Texas-based investment firm called Lantern Capital has a “stalking horse” agreement to take over all of TWC’s projects. (In a bankruptcy, a stalking horse bidder agrees to take over all the assets of the broke company, so that the assets maintain their value and don’t get put on clearance, essentially.) This means Lantern Capital will own Project Runway once everything goes through. According to the New York Post, A+E has expressed interest in buying it. So if they, or another network or streaming service, can come up with a good price for the investment firm, there may be more seasons of the reality design show. But for now, don’t hold your breath.
Toxic men literally ruin everything.
More than having to sell off its assets and put a ton of content creators in limbo, the bankruptcy also means that TWC won’t be able to pay out all the settlements it had previously been contracted to pay to Weinstein’s victims. It might release victims from their non-disclosure agreements, which is one upside. But a lot of people are screwed in so many ways.
Apparently, that’s the price of “outing all the pigs” and sexual predators that quite literally run the world. It’s worth it in the long run that so many people are feeling the effects of harboring a sexual predator and shrugging their shoulders at sexual harassment and assault. But it’s kind of wild how far reaching the consequences of Weinstein’s actions are, no? Of course, his far reach is how he got away with it for so long, reminding victims that he was the Wizard of Oz in a way, the guy that could make or break careers, even though he was just a tiny little dude trying to get away with gross abuses for as long as he could.
Sadly, it’s not surprising that so many people working on projects that desperately needed funding from a studio like TWC would hesitate to pull the curtain back and reveal Weinstein for what he was, even at the expense of women. Yet if someone had held him accountable, by not working with him, by not allowing NDAs, say, the first time he did it, the consequences wouldn’t be so dire right now.
TWC’s bankruptcy and essential fire sale isn’t proof that the #MeToo movement means we can’t have nice things like Tim Gunn, or that victims are out to topple empires. Instead, it perfectly sums up why Weinstein’s empire shouldn’t have been built in the first place. It’s easier to catch cancer early and get rid of it than it is to let is fester past the point of possible healing, right? Companies should remember that it’s worth taking a small financial hit and believing women right away, because caring for sexual predators won’t pay off in the long run.