Weinstein seeks divorce from Disney

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The Independent Online

Harvey Weinstein, chief executive of the film studio Miramax, is adding to the woes of Walt Disney chief Michael Eisner by saying he wants a divorce from the entertainment empire.

The move is calculated to further destabilise Mr Eisner as he attempts to defend Disney against a $60bn (£32bn) bid by US cable giant Comcast.

Miramax, which is behind a series of acclaimed movies including the current hit Cold Mountain, has been owned by Disney since 1993. Mr Weinstein, who has a difficult relationship with Mr Eisner, is understood to have hired investment bankers to advise him. He has indicated he wants to buy Miramax back from Disney and will consider leaving to set up on his own if he cannot strike a deal. Miramax is estimated to be worth at least $2bn.

However, his position may be different if Comcast wins its hostile bid. Mr Weinstein is a friend of Comcast's chief executive, Brian Roberts. Both own summer homes in the well-heeled East Coast resort of Martha's Vineyard.

The loss of Miramax would be a bitter blow to Disney, coming in the wake of the divorce from Pixar, the computer animation studio which made the Finding Nemo and Toy Story movies. Pixar cancelled a distribution deal with Disney last month after takeover talks collapsed. Last week, Comcast capitalised on Disney's weakened position to launch a hostile all-share bid. Although media analysts believe the offer is too low to succeed, they give Disney little chance of survival.

Other suitors have been eyeing up Disney, including John Malone's Liberty Media; InterActiveCorp, headed by Barry Diller; Viacom, which owns CBS; General Electric, owner of NBC; and Microsoft.