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6 Things to Know About Latina Businesswoman Maria Contreras-Sweet

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Last year, Hollywood was rocked by the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Dozens of women came out to accuse the famed producer of sexual assault, including Salma Hayek who revealed that he was her “monster” during the filming of Frida and later shared more horrifying details in an Oprah interview. Yesterday, we heard the good news that The Weinstein Company, which produced films such as Frida, The Artist, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, was now the hands of Latina businesswoman Maria Contreras-Sweet. Unfortunately, however, that deal has fallen through.

According to People, a group of investors led by Maria Contreras-Sweet had reached a deal to buy The Weinstein Co. In a statement, Contreras-Sweet said that they hoped to “launch a new company, with a new board and a new vision that embodies the principles that we have stood by since we began this process last fall… Those principles have never wavered and have always been to build a movie studio led by a board of directors made up of a majority of independent women.” However, according to The Guardian, the deal ultimately fell through at the eleventh hour due to her group uncovering an additional $50-60 million in debt. In a statement, she said:

“All of us have worked in earnest on the transaction to purchase the assets of the Weinstein Company. However, after signing and entering into the confirmatory diligence phase, we have received disappointing information about the viability of completing this transaction. As a result, we have decided to terminate this transaction.”

 

Although it’s upsetting that the fate of The Weinstein Co. again hangs in the balance, it’s incredible that this Latina entrepreneur went to such great lengths to try to save the company and compensate Harvey Weinstein’s victims. This also isn’t the first time that Contreras-Sweet has been in the spotlight. You might know her name from her work with President Barack Obama or when she started a bank that served Latino business owners. However, there’s a lot more to know about this inspiring Latina. Here are six things that you need to know about Maria Contreras-Sweet.

1. She is an immigrant. 

Contreras-Sweet was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and immigrated to Los Angeles, California, when she was five years old with her mother. She has five siblings, but her parents didn’t stay together (her dad was 30 years older).

“They didn’t have a cultural connection,” she told The New York Times. “That’s why my mother left and she traveled here to the United States with her six children.”

2. She got her confidence from her mom. 

Her mother left her businessman husband in order to immigrate to the U.S. She “made enormous sacrifices” to raise six children as a single mom.

“One of the things that I really appreciate about my mother and my grandmother is that they’ve always felt a sense of exceptionalism,” she said. “Even today, my mother, who is now in her mid-80s, still has this sense of confidence, that “I matter,” when she enters a room. I think that’s important to instill in our young girls — that we matter, we deserve to be heard and we deserve to be treated equally.”

3. She supports Latino businesses. 

Formerly, she was the executive chairwoman and founder of ProAmérica Bank, a commercial bank that focuses on small to mid-sized businesses and specializes in the Latino community.

She founded ProAmérica Bank in 2006 and served as executive chairwoman until 2014. Pacific Commerce Bank bought ProAmérica Bank in December 2015, according to The Los Angeles Times.

4. She’s involved in both the private and public sectors. 

She founded a private equity firm and also served as the California Secretary of Business, Transportation, and Housing under Governor Gray Davis.

She was the first Latina to be named Cabinet Secretary in United States history, according to Bloomberg, and during her 5-year term (from 1999-2003), she oversaw 44,000 employees, a $14 billion budget, and 14 state departments. 

5. She worked with President Barack Obama. 

In January 2014, she was nominated to join his Cabinet as head of the Small Business Administration. She served from April 2014-January 2017.

During her tenure, the SBA was charged with supporting America’s 28 million small businesses, “which create a majority of U.S. jobs and employ half of our nation’s private-sector workforce,” according to Contreras-Sweet Companies.

6. She had been planning to buy The Weinstein Company for months.

Originally, she placed a $275 million bid in November 2017 but the company was expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After almost reaching a deal to purchase The Weinstein Co. for $500 million (including a $90 million victims compensation fun) last Thursday, it fell through on Wednesday, March 7, due to her group discovering an additional $50-60 million in debt than previously thought.

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