LOS ANGELES — Two female-led investor groups are lining up to save the Weinstein Company, which has been straining to avoid bankruptcy since dozens of allegations of sexual harassment and rape were made against co-owner Harvey Weinstein.
Throwing a lifeline to an entertainment company that has become a symbol of the systemic mistreatment of women in Hollywood would seem like the last thing that feminists like Gloria Allred and Ana Oliveira, chief executive of the New York Women’s Foundation, would be interested in doing. But each is involved with a group holding separate acquisition talks with the embattled Weinstein Company — with the aim of benefiting sexual misconduct victims.
Their interest underscores the fragile position of the company and the factors beyond mere business considerations that must be addressed if it is to have a future.
“Can we dare to think about seizing these assets to help institute long-term change?” Ms. Oliveira said in an interview. “Can the Weinstein Company see the opportunity to go through a social redemption process?”
Neither group is close to making a deal, however, and some longtime media investors and advisers question whether the efforts are more about making a statement than realistically moving the company past its current mess.
Mr. Oliveira’s organization is affiliated with an acquisition effort being led by Killer Content, a New York company behind art-house films like “Carol” and television mini-series including “Mildred Pierce.” Killer has lined up an investor group that includes Abigail Disney, a documentary filmmaker and philanthropist who is Walt Disney’s grandniece, and the futuristic transportation entrepreneur Brogan BamBrogan.
In talks with Weinstein Company’s sale advisers, the Killer group has proposed a radical notion: It wants to buy parts of the studio — in particular, several finished films and television projects that are in development — and give profits to organizations focused on ending harassment, sexual abuse and discrimination. The group calls its plan Project Level Forward. The New York Women’s Foundation would also distribute proceeds to other nonprofits.
Adrienne Becker, Killer’s acting chief executive, declined to comment about the talks, citing a confidentiality agreement. In a statement, she said, “It appears that there is a conversation that could be had with the interested parties that have a common agenda.”
Ms. Becker was referring to a separate acquisition effort made public in recent days by Maria Contreras-Sweet, who led the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama and founded ProAmerica Bank. “I have assembled a first-class team of financial partners, advisors and consultants to put together a proposal,” Ms. Contreras-Sweet wrote in a letter to the Weinstein Company’s three-member board, which includes Harvey Weinstein’s brother, Bob Weinstein. In the letter, Ms. Contreras said that she would rename the company and remove Bob Weinstein as chairman as part of a plan to keep it running.
A copy of the letter was sent to The New York Times by Ms. Allred, who said she had consulted with Ms. Contreras-Sweet about an unusual component — establishing a fund for the women accusing Mr. Weinstein of abuse and a mediation process for reaching settlements. “Her proposal and the way that it is structured would make ‘herstory,’” Ms. Allred said in an email.
Ms. Contreras-Sweet, who did not identify her financial backers in her letter, declined to comment. Her team has not yet determined what the Weinstein Company might be worth, according to a person briefed on her effort, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
The company’s assets include a handful of finished films, a library of old movies and several television series, including “Project Runway.”
A spokesman for the Weinstein Company did not respond to a request for comment. Through a spokeswoman, Harvey Weinstein has repeatedly denied “any allegations of nonconsensual sex.”
Most experts believe that bankruptcy remains the most likely outcome for the Weinstein Company, in part because its debt is estimated to total at least $375 million — more than the studio is most likely worth.
And then there are the lawsuits.
The Weinstein Company was already facing court claims before Harvey Weinstein became the subject of multiple police investigations. The studio, for instance, has been battling a $130 million fraud lawsuit over its dealings with Genius Products, a bankrupt home entertainment company once largely owned by the Weinsteins. The trustee overseeing the Genius Products proceedings on Nov. 2 asked a California bankruptcy judge to freeze any efforts by the Weinstein Company to sell assets.
Now sexual harassment-related lawsuits are arriving, including some filed by Ms. Allred. On Oct. 24, an aspiring actress, Dominique Huett, sued the Weinstein Company in Los Angeles Superior Court, accusing it of negligence. Two other actresses are anonymously suing Harvey Weinstein and the studio on similar grounds. Lawyers representing another actress filed a class-action complaint on Nov. 15 against the studio and other parties in United States District Court for the Central District of California.
To stay afloat while it pursues a sale — the studio employs about 150 people — the Weinstein Company at first sought loans from Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm that has lent money to struggling film companies in the past, and Colony Capital, the private equity firm run by Thomas J. Barrack Jr. Those efforts failed.
With the clock ticking, the studio decided to sell a prize asset — North American distribution rights to “Paddington 2,” an animated movie produced by Studio Canal, a division of Vivendi SA, and set for release in January. Bob Weinstein had been hoping that ticket sales would be strong enough to stabilize the studio.
A sale of the rights to Warner Brothers . on Nov. 15 raised about $32 million, which will be shared by the Weinstein Company and Studio Canal.
The Weinstein Company has a handful of unreleased movies left, including “Polaroid,” a teenage horror movie; “The War With Grandpa,” a comedy starring Robert De Niro; “The Upside,” a comedy starring Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston; and “The Current War,” a period drama. Box office analysts say prospects are mixed for those films, each of which would require marketing campaigns costing tens of millions of dollars.