Until recently, Andy Mitchell’s closest brush with Hollywood came in “The Queen of Versailles,” the 2012 documentary about the collapse of a timeshare empire.
The film centered on David Siegel, founder of Westgate Resorts, and his struggles to get out from under crushing debt. Mitchell did not appear in the film, but he was among the debtholders putting the screws to Siegel. His company ultimately took control of Siegel’s timeshare tower in Las Vegas.
For Mitchell, it was a fairly typical assignment. The timeshare firm was a badly damaged asset, and it needed someone to roll up his sleeves and get dirty.
Mitchell, 42, is now taking on an even bigger mess: The Weinstein Co. Mitchell’s firm, Lantern Capital, is poised to acquire the bankrupt mini-studio for $310 million in cash, plus $115 million in project-based debt. A bankruptcy judge may sign off on the transaction as soon as May 8.
Lantern faces the daunting task of restarting the moribund studio while trying to ease tensions with Harvey Weinstein’s harassment victims, some of whom backed a rival bid that would have included a $30 million payout to the accusers.
Adding to the challenge, Mitchell and his firm have no entertainment experience, and are learning the business more or less on the fly. Some in Hollywood see that as a red flag. But those who know Mitchell say it will work out.
“Andy Mitchell is a great guy and a trustworthy person,” says Tom McInerney, who was an early employee of Lantern Asset Management. “They see a business with tremendous assets and potential that they can work alongside to make better.”
Harvey Weinstein in recent years
Harvey Weinstein in recent years
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 09: Film Producer Harvey Weinstein attends Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's 'The Current War' TIFF Premiere Party Hosted by Cactus Club Cafe And Johnnie Walker Black Label at First Canadian Place on September 9, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by GP Images/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 07: Film producer Harvey Weinstein attends the premiere of 'House of Z' hosted by Brooks Brothers with The Cinema Society at Crosby Street Hotel on September 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 2: (L-R) Elizabeth Olsen, Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman attend The Weinstein Company with FIJI, Grey Goose, Lexus and NetJets host the after party for 'Wind River' at The Skylark on August 2, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
CAP D'ANTIBES, FRANCE - MAY 25: Harvey Weinstein (L) and Georgina Chapman attend the amfAR Gala Cannes 2017 at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on May 25, 2017 in Cap d'Antibes, France. (Photo by Dave Benett/amfAR2017/Dave Benett/WireImage for amfAR )
CAP D'ANTIBES, FRANCE - MAY 25: Harvey Weinstein speaks on stage during the amfAR Gala Cannes 2017 at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on May 25, 2017 in Cap d'Antibes, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 11: Co-creator, Executive Producer & Actor Aziz Ansari, film producer Harvey Weinstein and VP of Original Series for Netflix Cindy Holland attend the Netflix Master Of None S2, Premiere NY Screening 2017 on May 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Netflix)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 09: Film producer Harvey Weinstein poses with writer Plum Sykes during her book launch celebration for 'Party Girls Die In Pearls' at Brooks Brothers on May 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 4: Harvey Weinstein speaks at International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children 2017 Gala for Child Protection at Gotham Hall on May 4, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Owen Hoffmann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, NY - APRIL 30: (Exclusive Coverage) Harvey Weinstein attends 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge celebrates 25th Anniversary of 'Reservoir Dogs' with private party for Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino at 1 Hotel on April 30, 2017 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for 1 Hotel)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: Film Producer Harvey Weinstein attends 'Reservoir Dogs' 25th Anniversary Screening during 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at The Beacon Theatre on April 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Harvey Weinstein attends the 2017 National Geographic FURTHER FRONT at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City (Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: (L-R) Harvey Weinstein, Don Lemon, and Dan Abrams attend The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media 2017 at The Pool on April 13, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: Harvey Weinstein and Blake Lively attend 2017 Time 100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TIME)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 04: Harvey Weinstein is seen on April 4, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Harvey Weinstein, and Jay Z speak onstage during TIME AND PUNISHMENT: A Town Hall Discussion with JAY Z and Harvey Weinstein on Spike TV at MTV Studios on March 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Spike)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Producer Harvey Weinstein (L) and designer Georgina Chapman arrive at the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 25: (L-R) Actor Dev Patel, producer Harvey Weinstein and actress Priyanka Bose attend The Weinstein Company's Pre-Oscar Dinner in partnership with Bvlgari and Grey Goose at Montage Beverly Hills on February 25, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson (L) and Producer Harvey Weinstein attend a dinner to celebrate The GCC and The Journey To Sustainable Luxury on February 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/ Getty Images for Eco-Age)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Mandy Moore, Harvey Weinstein and Anna Wintour attend the Marchesa Fashion show during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Skylight Clarkson Sq on February 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Kat Florence (L) and Harvey Weinstein attend as The Weinstein Company, Entertainment Film Distributors and STUDIOCANAL celebrate the 2017 BAFTA after party in partnership with Ben Sherman, Kat Florence, and Grey Goose at Rosewood London on February 12, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Harvey Weinstein attends the Power of Film and Moving Images symposium at The Royal Institution on February 9, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
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Mitchell launched Lantern Capital in 2014, spinning it off from Lantern Asset Management, which had been a subsidiary of Centerbridge Capital Partners.
He teamed with Milos Brajovic, whom he had met when they were young vice presidents at Houlihan Lokey. Mitchell, who grew up in Fort Worth, headquartered the company in Dallas.
According to a former employee, Centerbridge had become a massive company, with $14 billion in assets under management. The Lantern team wanted to go smaller and focus on middle-market investments.
According to a recent regulatory filing, Lantern has 12 employees and $531 million under management. It’s not clear how much equity the company is putting into the Weinstein deal, though a source said the firm is taking on more than $200 million in debt from SunTrust Bank.
In a 2016 interview on “PlayMakers,” a Dallas radio show, Mitchell said that he preferred to stay away from intellectual property and venture-capital style investments in favor of industrial businesses, automotive companies and brick-and-mortar retail. The firm has also invested in a zinc company and a golf course in Houston designed by Tiger Woods.
“We like companies that we can understand,” he said on the show. “You should always invest in a company that a fool can run, because eventually one may. So we try to look at businesses that we can get our head around, that aren’t completely dependent on intellectual property and asset-light type structures, that really have a business model that we can understand.”
Lantern evidently had a change of heart when the Weinstein opportunity came along. Mitchell declined to be interviewed for this story.
Lantern’s backers said that turnarounds are similar across industries.
“What makes Lantern successful … is being nimble,” says the former Lantern employee. “Weinstein is totally fucked. It’s like … who cares? People, assets and cash flow — that’s what makes investments. One of those three — the bad people — are out. So you have assets and cash flow. That’s just math.”
It might not be quite that simple. For one thing, Lantern will have to attract a new management team. It’s not clear that a top-drawer CEO is waiting in the wings. For another thing, there is PR. The company will continue to face pressure from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to compensate Weinstein’s victims.
In a statement last week, Lantern committed to maintaining a “diverse workforce in a safe environment founded on a culture of respect and creativity.” But it will take more than that to assure the public — and the entertainment community — that a page has been turned.