After a prolonged, months-long negotiation, Bob and Harvey Weinstein and the Walt Disney Studios announced March 29 that they are ending their 12-year exclusive relationship, under which the Weinstein

(The Hollywood Reporter) -- After a prolonged, months-long negotiation, Bob and Harvey Weinstein and the Walt Disney Studios announced March 29 that they are ending their 12-year exclusive relationship, under which the Weinsteins ran Miramax Films.

The divorce was characterized as a "mutual agreement" and culminated what Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook called a "long and arduous process," which he insisted "was always amicable."

"While it's always hard to leave behind the company named after our parents, Miriam and Max," Harvey Weinstein said, "we are hitting the ground running," as he and his brother prepare to launch a new company with ambitious plans to release 15-20 films in its first year.

It is not clear how much the Weinsteins had to pay Disney for the film projects that they will take to the new company. But the settlement compensation, which Disney paid to Miramax, according to Miramax sources, amounted to about $135 million. Cook would not comment on the figure.

Disney, which acquired Miramax for $80 million in 1993, retains control of Miramax's 600-title library as well as the Miramax name.

The announcement came in the form of a phone conference in which Cook and the Weinsteins -- though Harvey Weinstein spoke for the two brothers -- sketched out their futures.

The Weinsteins will remain co-chairs of Miramax on a nonexclusive basis through Sept. 30, when their contract expires. During that time, they will focus on completing projects already in production and will oversee the marketing and distribution of Miramax and Dimension films scheduled for release.

Cook will "immediately start the search process" for new management to run a leaner Miramax for Disney. A new Miramax head will not be announced until July.

The Weinsteins will make no new financial commitments toward the development, acquisition or production of projects on behalf of Miramax. But the brothers will begin creating their new company, temporarily dubbed the Weinstein Co., and will begin the production, development and acquisition of projects for their venture.

Looking to the future, the Weinsteins are not thinking small. They are reportedly seeking to raise $1 billion -- $500 million in equity and $500 million in debt. They have no intention of being mere "independent producers," Weinstein said, but are building a "giant multimedia company" that will encompass film production and distribution, broadcasting, books, new technology, the Internet and theater and the possible purchase of a cable company.

Disney shares rose 45 cents to close at $28.35 in March 29 trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $20.88 to $29.99.

Disney will honor all Miramax employee contracts past September, though Miramax sources said the Weinsteins have arranged with Disney to bring many staffers to their new company.

The Weinsteins will take Dimension Films, Miramax's genre label, with them to their new company.

But like divorced parents who share custody of their children, Disney and the Weinsteins will continue to have dealings with each other.

They could collaborate on 25 or more projects including, but not limited to, co-productions of sequels to such hit film franchises as "Scary Movie" and "Spy Kids." They also will co-finance the production and distribution of original films including Anthony Minghella's "Breaking and Entering," starring Jude Law and Juliette Binoche; Stephen Frears' "Mrs. Henderson Presents"; "Derailed," starring Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen; and the Sundance acquisition "The Matador." Disney and the Weinsteins also will co-venture on the fantasy franchise "Artemis Fowl."

The Weinsteins have not announced any sources of financing -- and skeptics argue that they face a challenging climate on Wall Street for raising capital and may need an angel like Paul Allen or Philip Anschutz.

"Nobody would have invested in DreamWorks if it were presented now," one studio chief said. "It will be difficult to sell the Weinsteins' plan to a studio or business investment without a library for cash flow."

But Weinstein did outline a high-profile board of advisers with which he is working. It includes Steve Rattner, Jim Dolan, Millard "Mickey" Drexler, Arnon Milchan and Hollywood movie icons Paul Newman and Robert Redford. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, how cool is that?" Weinstein said.

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