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Construction magnate Ron Tutor and troubled financier David Bergstein in exclusive talks for Miramax

June 4, 2010 | 11:35 am

Tutor
Los Angeles construction magnate Ron Tutor and his embattled film financier partner, David Bergstein, are entering into exclusive negotiations with Walt Disney Co. to acquire Miramax Films.

Tutor confirmed Friday morning in an interview with The Times that "we have the right to exclusively negotiate and conclude a deal," beginning Monday. The parties reached a handshake agreement Thursday night and it's now under review by lawyers, Tutor said.

A Disney representative was not immediately available for comment.

The surprise development comes shortly after a failed attempt by supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle and Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein to buy back the specialty movie company for around $600 million.

Tutor and Bergstein had been one of three original bidders for Miramax and had submitted the highest offer -- between $650 million and $700 million -- beating out the Weinsteins and investor brothers Tom and Alec Gores. However, Disney entered into weeks of exclusive negotiations with the Weinsteins and their financial backer, but talks broke down two weeks ago when the parties failed to come to terms.

Disney then turned its attention to the two remaining bidders.

Tutor and Bergstein, who said he was serving as an advisor to Tutor and an offshore investor in the Miramax transaction, emerged as the front-runners because their bid was closer to Disney's asking price of $700 million, said a person close to the situation. The Gores initially offered $550 million and subsequently increased the offer.

Though a deal with Tutor-Bergstein was growing closer heading into the weekend, it was still not finalized on Friday morning.

Many in Hollywood, and even some executives inside Disney, considered Bergstein a dark horse given his troubled business dealings. Earlier this year, a group of creditors dragged several companies controlled by Bergstein into bankruptcy court and a judge appointed a trustee to oversee the assets.

More than five years ago, Bergstein found a deep-pocketed benefactor for his entertainment ventures in his Hidden Hills neighbor Tutor, chief executive of Sylmar-based construction giant Tutor-Saliba Corp. The two business partners sought to build a global digital distribution business, betting that Internet and television on-demand services would create new opportunities for film libraries.

Miramax, which was a pioneer in independent film through the 1980s and much of the 1990s, has 611 titles in its catalog, including "Pulp Fiction" and best picture Oscar winners "Shakespeare In Love" and "Chicago."

-- Claudia Eller and Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photos: Tutor (left) and Bergstein (right) by Gary Friedman/LAT

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