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Relativity Media Extends Furlough; Down to Handful of Employees, Sources Say

Variety logo Variety 1/5/2017 James Rainey
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Relativity Media’s fade out continued this week, as the bulk of the company’s employees were told that an unpaid furlough that began over the two-week winter holiday will continue indefinitely, according to two people familiar with the operation.

Only a handful of workers remain at the entertainment firm that had already pared its staff to less than 30, those sources said. Relativity once aspired to be a “360-degree global media platform” that could compete with Hollywood’s big studios.

The news comes in the wake of other signs of Relativity’s decline, eight months after its bankruptcy reorganization; CEO Ryan Kavanaugh and President Dana Brunetti signaled just before the holidays that they would step down from daily duties. And, this week, the company laid off roughly 40 workers who staffed its joint distribution operation with EuropaCorp.

There is wide speculation in Hollywood that Relativity will cease operating either by liquidating its assets under a Chapter 7 filing, or simply by shutting its doors.

“To me this is the true end of Relativity,” said one individual close to the company. “There is no more marketing function and no production to speak of. Ryan is gone. Dana is gone. It’s over.”

Relativity COO Ken Halsband referred questions to the company’s outside spokesperson, who declined to comment. One person close to management, who declined to be identified, refuted the claim that less than a half-dozen employees remain.

Two insiders said that Halsband intends to keep the company afloat, though he has never publicly discussed how he would achieve that. The sources also noted that the operation is looking to cut costs by moving out of its Beverly Hills headquarters. Lawyers who handled the company’s bankruptcy are still owed millions of dollars. Relativity’s decline has also hit those on the low end of the economic spectrum — with a gardener complaining Wednesday that he is owed $2,600, according to an insider.

Kavanaugh, the 42-year-old entrepreneur who founded Relativity a dozen years ago, has never publicly acknowledged or refuted press reports that he was leaving his post as CEO. A statement from a company spokesperson suggested he would continue to work, in some capacity, with Brunetti and another Relativity executive.

That same statement, late last month, said that Brunetti had “transitioned to a production deal” with the company and added the he also remained a shareholder. “The company, Dana and Ryan agreed that Dana’s greatest value add to the company is to make the movies he wants to, giving him flexibility to make the films he enjoys,” the statement said.

Brunetti was hired last January by Kavanaugh to help lead the company’s resurgence, originally to team with his long-time producing partner, Academy Award-winner Kevin Spacey. But Spacey dropped out of the arrangement months ago and, on Tuesday, Brunetti was packing up his office, according to one insider.

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