Harvey Weinstein was suspended indefinitely from his film company Friday pending an internal investigation into claims that he sexually harassed women — including aspiring actresses — over the last three decades.
The company’s board announced the move after naming lawyer John Kiernan from the firm Debevoise & Plimpton as head of the private company probe.
The board stopped short of firing Weinstein but said his return would be contingent upon therapeutic progress and Kiernan’s findings.
The board of the Tribeca-based production company hashed out its response in emergency meetings Thursday and Friday in the wake of an explosive Times exposé claiming Weinstein preyed on female staffers and aspiring actresses including Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan.
It came after Variety reported Weinstein’s own brother and co-chairman Bob Weinstein called for his permanent departure from the company they co-founded.
Amid screaming matches and infighting, board member Dirk Ziff resigned Friday, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Unidentified insiders told Variety that Weinstein has insisted he can weather the scandal and will not resign voluntarily. They described the 65-year-old mogul as “delusional” and completely unaware of the intense backlash he’s facing online and among influential former supporters.
Experts said Weinstein will have a hard time continuing in his field.
“I suspect very strongly this is far from over and ultimately the board, I believe, will be forced to fire him,” Mark Lipton, a professor of management at the New School and author of the book “Mean Men: The Perversion of America’s Self-Made Man,” told the Daily News.
“This is egregious behavior that no responsible board should tolerate,” he said Friday.
Harvey Weinstein (l) and Bob Weinstein pose with the Motion Picture Showmanship Award in this 2015 file photo in Beverly Hills, Calif. Bob reportedly wants his own brother out of their company after reports he preyed on women surfaced.
“How can he not be fired?” asked Richard Rushfield, founder of the entertainment industry newsletter The Ankler.
“After these revelations, he’s going to be an untouchable figure in Hollywood. Nobody can do business with him without coming under suspicion and attack themselves,” he told The News Friday.
“Every single actor who does a film will be hit with, ‘Don’t you know there were eight women? Are their charges not worth being taken seriously?'” he said.
Defections among key staff at Weinstein’s company could become a problem too, the experts said.
According to The Times, Weinstein sexually harassed young actresses and female staffers over the last 30 years and reached confidential settlements with at least eight women including McGowan in 1997 and Italian model Ambra Battilana in 2015.
Battilana previously told police Weinstein groped her breasts and stuck his hand up her skirt during a meeting at his Tribeca office.
Judd told The Times Weinstein once lured her to a Beverly Hills hotel room, greeted her in a bathrobe, offered to massage her and asked if she would watch him shower.
He said he would take a leave of absence to “deal with this issue head on,” but then his lawyer Charles Harder vowed to sue The Times for writing a story “saturated with false and defamatory statements.”
For its part, The Times said it stands by the story and called on Weinstein to release the women from their nondisclosure agreements so they can speak freely without fear of reprisal.
“Mr. Weinstein and his lawyer have confirmed the essential points of the story,” Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha, said in a statement. “Mr. Weinstein has not pointed to any errors or challenged any facts in our story. Also, Mr. Weinstein should publicly waive the NDAs in the women’s agreements so they can tell their stories. As a supporter of women, he must support their right to speak openly about these issues of gender and power.”
The Weinstein brothers co-founded The Weinstein Company in 2005 after leaving Miramax in an bitter split with Disney.
With News Wire Services