Billionaire Ron Burkle’s battle with Weinstein buyout fraud to continue says judge

Billionaire Ron Burkle will get to pursue his lawsuit claiming that he has been cheated during the $289 million sale of assets from Harvey Weinstein’s production company.

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On Thursday, Judge Steven Kleifield, of Superior Court in Los Angeles, issued a ruling to move forward in Burkle’s lawsuit. The ruling overruled a motion to dismiss the fraud claims from Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies against the Weinstein Co., according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Yucaipa filed the suit against Lantern Entertainment in the summer of 2018, after the latter completed a $289 million deal for The Weinstein Company assets.

Ron Burkle’s suit details the work he and his company put into Lantern, which is now Spyglass Media, to assist the Texas-based company in their purchase of the Weinstein assets. Burkle claimed fraud and a breach of contract related to that sale he felt squeezed out of.

As the first investor to attempt to buy Weinstein’s assets outside of bankruptcy, Burkle's initial attempt at a deal fell apart. Burkle then put in work with Lantern in exchange for equity in the acquisition of the Weinstein Co., which the suit claims never came to fruition.

Burkle’s first swing at the Weinstein Co. made room to compensate creditors and other victims of Weinstein, the infamous Hollywood producer who has spent the last few years in and out of court battling sexual assault charges.

Weinstein and his brother Bob ran Miramax and The Weinstein Company, production houses that brought movie fans Oscar-winning films like “Good Will Hunting” and "The Aviator,” before collapsing due to Harvey’s alleged illicit behavior.

Yucaipa’s suit claims that in exchange for helping Lantern with the deal, Burkle was promised 2% of the purchase price along with an opportunity to invest $50 million. Lantern revealed emails in court as evidence that they were not intending on frauding Burkle, but the judge was not in agreement.

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"Defendants rely on emails to indicate there was no intent to defraud," Kleifield said. "However, regardless of whether there was fraudulent intent for that one promise, Plaintiff raised multiple allegedly false promises for this single cause of action. And, where a plaintiff includes many acts that comprise a single cause of action, it is error to sustain a demurrer that addresses fewer than all of the allegations that comprise the cause of action."

This case will move forward to jury trial in Oct. 2020.