Disney Sells Miramax to a Group That Includes Rob Lowe

The Walt Disney Co. said Friday that it agreed to sell its Miramax Films to an investor group for about $660 million, ending a 17-year association with the studio and a six-month bidding process.

Miramax's Oscar-laden film library has more than 700 titles, including prestigious films such as "My Left Foot" (1989), "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and "Good Will Hunting" (1997).

But Disney had been looking to sell Miramax amid a studio overhaul because it no longer resonated with its other family centric studio units such as Pixar and Marvel.

"Although we are very proud of Miramax's many accomplishments, our current strategy for Walt Disney Studios is to focus on the development of great motion pictures under the Disney, Pixar and Marvel brands," said Disney president and CEO Robert A. Iger said in a statement. "We are delighted that we have found a home for the Miramax brand and Miramax's very highly regarded motion picture library."

The label was founded in 1979 by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who named it after their parents, Miriam and Max. It was sold to Disney for $80 million in 1993, and the brothers stayed on as managers.

But the duo left in 2005 to found The Weinstein Co. after years of troubled relations with Disney and a public spat over Michael Moore's 2004 documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," which Disney refused to distribute.

The Weinstein's recent bid to buy Miramax with the financial backing of supermarket magnate Ron Burkle was halted after Burkle cut the offered price to about $565 million from $625 million.

The entertainment company signed an agreement late Thursday with Filmyard Holding, an investor group led by construction magnate and Hollywood outsider Ronald Tutor. Other investors include Colony Capital LLC, a real estate investment group, and its CEO Tom Barrack.

Actor Rob Lowe has been linked as a creative partner with the Colony-Tutor group.

Tutor and his partners put down a nonrefundable deposit of $40 million to Disney on Thursday. Disney said the deal could close as soon as Sept. 10.

The deal would give Filmyard rights to the Miramax catalog and other assets, including books, certain projects that are still in development and the "Miramax" brand.

Despite its past success with prize-winning films, Miramax also faces challenges.

Earlier this year, Disney stopped investing in its new projects, laying off all but a handful of staff beginning in January in a major round of cost-cutting and reorganization under its new studios chairman, Rich Ross. It was one of many niche labels shuttered or downsized in Hollywood recently, plagued by high costs and few commercial hits despite their occasional critical success.
Disney shares fell 2 cents to $33.69 in midday trading Friday.