Finding Neverland Company.
For years, Harvey Weinstein was seen as one of the country’s most prominent donors and fund-raisers for causes ranging from the Democratic Party to AmFAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. That image began to shatter following on-the-record accusations of sexual assault that resulted in Weinstein’s termination from The Weinstein Company and the ensuing crisis that has put the company in play.
Although Weinstein insists that all of the interactions were consensual, many recipients of his largesse, including former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, have distanced themselves from the once-powerful mogul.
A report published today byVanity Fair examines in detail one of the most controversial financial deals Weinstein made with AmFAR, first revealed in September by The New York Times. The arrangement called for AmFAR to share the proceeds from a Weinstein gift lot sold at he charity’s annual auction, with a nonprofit theater company, the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, where his costly – and ultimately failed – production of Finding Neverland had its Broadway tryout.
Weinstein himself financed the A.R.T. production to the tune of $2.05 million. It was to mark his debut, after many years of investing in others’ shows, as the lead producer of a big Broadway musical. Producers typically engage nonprofit theaters to mount shake-out presentations of shows before bringing them to New York. Under an unusual agreement, however, Weinstein was to receive a sizable chunk of it back once the show moved to New York.
Following the money, reporter William D, Cohan found that in order to expedite a payment of $600K to A.R.T. that Weinstein had guaranteed, Weinstein gave the sum to AmFAR on June 1, 2016; 17 minutes later, AmFAR wired the same amount to A.R.T. It was money that ultimately would be returned to Weinstein and his investors.
“Weinstein’s relationship with AmFAR has thoroughly embarrassed the charity and hurt its $100 million capital campaign to find a cure for AIDS by 2020, while pushing the AmFAR board of directors into near civil war,” Cohan writes, concluding, “Weinstein told The New York Times about his AmFAR pledge amid the brewing controversy about what he had persuaded AmFAR to do. ‘I went to them. I said, ‘”I’m paying you $600,000…Shut up, you’re hurting the goddamn charity.’ The irony, of course, is that it is Harvey Weinstein who has hurt AmFAR more than anyone could have possibly imagined.”
Read the story here.
In the story, Weinstein’s attorney Benjamin Brafman says, “Mr. Weinstein has helped to raise north of $50 million for AIDS research. . . . To suggest that he would use or did use AmFAR for an illegal purpose is not true and under the circumstances offensive. We believe the facts without question establish that Mr. Weinstein has at all times acted with unwavering dedication to the AmFAR cause from its inception.”
Although the story doesn’t suggest that Weinstein did anything illegal in entangling AmFAR in his agreement with the American Rep, the charity board was clearly concerned about the impact of the deal both on its reputation and its ability to fundraise in the future. The board hired lawyer Tom Ajamie to investigate the deals. Ajamie later recounted 14 unsuccessful attempts to speak with Weinstein, Cohan reports, and concluded that the transaction “exposed amfAR to material risks to its financial integrity and reputation” and that, because Weinstein refused to “disclose any of the material facts” about it, “amfAR had no way of determining whether there was any danger of being involved in an illegal, fraudulent or misleading transaction.”
Oddly missing from Cohan’s report is any mention of Diane Paulus, whom Weinstein hired oversee the wholesale revamping of the show after an initial run in the U.K. that had proven disastrous. Paulus also is artistic director of A.R.T. There’s also no mention of Victoria Parker, the TWC executive Weinstein put in charge of the show as executive producer.
Paulus has emerged as one of the most highly regarded directors on Broadway, shows as disparate as Porgy and Bess, The Glass Menagerie and Pippin on her c.v. Weinstein hired her for both Finding Neverland – the musical adaptation of the popular 2004 Miramax film starring Johnny Depp Kate Winslet about the relationship between Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie and the family that inspired his stories – and a new spring show for Radio City Music Hall.
When the allegations of sexual assault were published. first in The Times and subsequently in The New Yorker, Paulus told Deadline, “While I never experienced this side of Harvey in my working relationship with him, I am appalled by his behavior and I stand strongly with of all the women who have had the courage to come forward.”