BEHIND THE SCENES
The Nightclub King Whose Properties Were Harvey Weinstein’s ‘Hunting Ground’
Giuseppe Cipriani’s hotels, bars, and restaurants are synonymous with celebrity, and women say they are also where the movie mogul attacked them.
For 20 years, movie producer Harvey Weinstein and restaurant magnate Giuseppe Cipriani have been the closest of friends, dining together every Wednesday night at The Sherry-Netherland Hotel near Central Park.
They invested in each others’ businesses. Cipriani reportedly provided money that helped start the fashion label of Weinstein’s wife. Weinstein invested in Cipriani London, and his company rented out an apartment at Cipriani Wall Street, the venue for the star-studded annual AMFAR gala where Weinstein was a huge fundraiser.
“Harvey Weinstein was a very frequent client,” Cipriani’s longtime friend, Paolo Zampolli, told The Daily Beast. Zampolli also called Cipriani a “fantastic man, a true friend and a very successful hard-working businessman.”
There was allegedly a darker side to their relationship, though.
Cipriani’s properties were Weinstein’s “hunting ground,” according to a woman who says she was attacked by him at a Cipriani property.
More than two dozen people interviewed by The Daily Beast described Cipriani and Weinstein’s relationship, which saw Weinstein bring celebs to Cipriani properties and Cipriani introduce women to Weinstein. “They both liked power, money, and beautiful women,” said a source who has known both men for years.
Weinstein is accused of three sexual assaults at Cipriani properties, and is charged with a fourth assault against a woman he met at Cipriani Upstairs in Manhattan. As a result of that alleged assault, the NYPD has been inquiring about the relationship between Cipriani and Weinstein, two sources said. Weinstein pleaded not guilty and has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex. Cipriani has not been charged with any wrongdoing and also denies the allegations.
Across the country, Los Angeles police are also investigating Weinstein’s actions at Cipriani’s Beverly Hills hotel, Mr. C. An Italian actress has accused Weinstein of raping her there in 2013. Weinstein had free rein of the hotel, two sources told The Daily Beast. Weinstein even had free use of a rooftop suite as his “sex pad,” courtesy of Cipriani, two sources said.
Talent powerhouse CAA has apologized after its agents were reported to have sent actresses to Weinstein hotel rooms despite knowing of his predatory behavior. The roles of fixers, journalists, and Weinstein’s PR people have also been exposed. The scope of Cipriani’s relationship with Weinstein has not been reported until now.
Giuseppe Cipriani and his properties are synonymous with celebrities. From Ibiza to Hong Kong, wherever his hotels and restaurants are, so are A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio and Anna Wintour. George Clooney held his bachelor party at Cipriani’s in Venice. When a Cipriani’s opened in Mexico City last month, David Beckham was seen dining there.
Cipriani, 53, is heir to a multibillion worldwide enterprise that started in Venice in 1932 when his Italian grandfather opened Harry’s Bar with a wealthy Bostonian. The bar invented the Bellini and was the rendezvous for traveling writers like Ernest Hemingway. Cipriani’s father built a posh hotel across the lagoon, but Giuseppe convinced his father and grandfather that the real money was in America.
In 1985, they opened a Harry’s Bar in New York. They hired the best chefs and stayed with simple Italian cuisine. The elder Giuseppe wrote cookbooks, the younger Giuseppe broke ground. He opened Cipriani 42nd Street, Cipriani Dolci in Grand Central Terminal, Cipriani Downtown in SoHo, Cipriani Wall Street and took over operations of the famed Rainbow Room in 30 Rock.
In 2007 Giuseppe and his father, Arrigo, pleaded guilty to evading approximately $3.5 million in city and state taxes over a six-year period, according to court documents. The two men narrowly avoided going to prison over the matter: Arrigo was sentenced to a conditional discharge and Giuseppe received three years’ probation. The two were ordered to repay a combined $10 million in back taxes.
In 2011, the family firm run by Giuseppe’s sons Ignazio and Maggio opened the Mr. C hotel in Beverly Hills. Weinstein was reportedly an early investor in Mr. C but it was Giuseppe Cipriani pulling the strings behind the scenes, according to two sources familiar with the hotel's operations.
Inside Mr. C’s lobby are tufted leather couches, Eames lounge chairs, and black-and-white photographs of film stars from the ’60s like Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. In the middle is a $35,000 transparent glass pool table with a stainless steel base. Above it all, hangs white glass chandeliers.
A source with intimate knowledge of the hotel’s operations told The Daily Beast Weinstein had free access to a rooftop suite at Mr. C (which includes a jacuzzi and usually goes for $2,745 a night), and he took women there “when the Peninsula was too hot.” The Peninsula was the L.A. hotel where Weinstein allegedly assaulted Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Claire Forlani among others. Another source said Weinstein used to give free rooms at Mr. C to celebrities: “If they stay there he had control of the women.”
Mr. C was also where Weinstein hosted major Hollywood parties, including a 2012 Golden Globe Nominees party. And it’s where Weinstein headed to allegedly hunt an Italian film actress after he met her at the Los Angeles, Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest in February 2013, having first encountered the woman in Rome.
The woman told the Los Angeles Times she was raped by Weinstein in her room upstairs at Mr. C. The LAPD said it was investigating her claim. Weinstein’s representative told the Times, “I can’t respond to some anonymous complaint,” but Weinstein has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
“He grabbed me by the hair and forced me to do something I did not want to do,” the 38-year-old model-actress told the Times. “He then dragged me to the bathroom and forcibly raped me.”
A source close to the investigation shared with The Daily Beast for the first time publicly what Weinstein allegedly did leading up to the attack.
“He showed up at the hotel late at night out of nowhere. He didn’t know what room she was staying in and she hadn’t even told him that she was staying at Mr. C but somehow he got the front desk to call up [to her room] from the lobby,” the source said, adding the woman said she didn’t want to see Weinstein.
“Next thing she knows Weinstein is banging on her door,” the source said. “He bullied his way in. Saying stuff like, ‘I just want to talk to you for a second, I’m going to help you,’ and that’s how he gets his way in. It was almost exactly like that audio of Ambra,” the source added, referring to Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez who in 2015 recorded Weinstein admitting he groped her.
“Once he bullies his way in he rapes her,” the source continued. “She barely knew him.”
A spokeswoman for Cipriani told The Daily Beast, “Like many other celebrities and movie industry figures, Mr. Weinstein has stayed at Mr. C in Los Angeles on several occasions. To our knowledge, no assault or improprieties of any kind were reported at the time of the alleged incidents. As regards any investigation by LAPD, any questions should be directed to the latter.” LAPD Capt. Billy Hayes, who heads up the department investigating Weinstein, declined to comment.
Ben Brafman, Weinstein’s criminal attorney, labeled the allegations “offensive” in a statement to The Daily Beast: “Simply put, there is no other way to address an ‘anonymous’ allegation other than to do deny it as patently false which Mr. Weinstein does.”
It was in New York in 2007 that Weinstein met Lauren Sivan who was then a 28-year-old TV journalist. She and her friend, who knew Cipriani socially, had just wrapped up an intimate dinner at Cipriani Downtown with Cipriani and Weinstein before heading to another Cipriani property for drinks, Socialista, a former West Village lounge.
It was there Sivan told The Daily Beast that Weinstein sexually assaulted her.
Sivan first shared her story with HuffPost last year but in multiple interviews with The Daily Beast she reinforced how crucial she felt Weinstein’s relationship with Cipriani was in the alleged attack and how the now disgraced producer seemingly had carte blanche at Socialista.
“This was his hunting ground,” she said of Weinstein regarding Cipriani’s worldwide portfolio of hotels, bars, clubs, and restaurants.
On the night of the alleged assault, Sivan said she, her friend, Weinstein, and Cipriani were together on the top floor of Socialista.
“Harvey was like let me show you around. Have you seen the restaurant downstairs?” Sivan recalled him saying before they went down together.
“My girlfriend said, ‘If you’re not back in 10 minutes I’m coming to look for you,’” Sivan said.
Sivan’s friend told The Daily Beast she asked Cipriani about Weinstein that night.
“I was sitting with Giuseppe and said, ‘Listen my friend is with Harvey. What do you think? Should I go find her?” the friend said speaking on the condition of confidentiality fearful of reprisals from both men. (Sivan confirmed her friend told this story later that night.)
“He laughed and said, ‘If it was my friend I would.’”
Sivan said when she left the table with Weinstein, “there were no red flags as he’d been nothing but charming.”
But when they got downstairs, the mood changed.
“And then he walked me towards the back of the kitchen and cornered me. He blocked my access because we were at the end of a very narrow hallway. He tried to kiss me and I pulled away.
“I apologized saying, ‘I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression,’” she continued. “He got annoyed with me and basically said, ‘Fine can you just stand there and be quiet.’
“And he just whipped out his junk and started masturbating. I wasn’t looking and thank God it was dark.”
Meanwhile, Sivan’s friend said she went to find her but was stopped by security.
“A door guy who was an asshole was giving me a hard time trying to get downstairs and blocking my way,” she said. “I said, ‘Do you mean to tell me if my friend is being sexually assaulted I can’t go down there?’ It was at that point he got out of the way.
“I went downstairs and she was coming out from some curtain—there was some tension and bizarreness in the air. Harvey made some random comments.”
Sivan said, Weinstein acted “super casual as if nothing had happened and said, ‘Yeah of course let’s go upstairs. Let’s rejoin the party.’”
In response to this allegation a spokeswoman for Cipriani said: “Although Mr. Cipriani read about an alleged incident at Cafe Socialista in 2007 in the media, he does not recall any such incident or whether he was even at Cafe Socialista when such incident allegedly occurred. It’s been 11 years.” Weinstein’s rep added, “Weinstein insists these are false allegations. His relationship with Giuseppe is private and his conversations are personal.”
Three years earlier, Weinstein allegedly met Lucia Evans at Cipriani Upstairs, a small lounge where it was once fashionable to smoke cigars and dance on tables. He then invited her to his Miramax offices in Tribeca to ostensibly discuss career opportunities, according to Evans, but he assaulted her instead.
“He forced me to perform oral sex on him,” she told The New Yorker. “I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this. Stop. Don’t.’” She said of the producer, “He’s a big guy. He overpowered me.”
Weinstein was charged last month with two counts of rape and one count of a criminal sex act for the alleged assault on Evans and another woman who remains anonymous. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison. Weinstein entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment.
Weinstein’s alleged behavior on Cipriani properties wasn’t just confined to the United States.
In the mid-2000s, actress Angie Everhart says Weinstein broke into the room she was in on a yacht during the Venice Film Festival and masturbated in front of her, it was widely reported last year.
“You’re a really nice girl, you shouldn’t tell anybody about this,” Everhart quoted Weinstein as saying.
Several sources say the yacht was owned by Cipriani and he used it to entertain dozens of beautiful women in St Tropez, Cannes, and Sardinia. A representative for Everhart told The Daily Beast, “Giuseppe is one of her best friends—she loves him. He has always been very good to her. She has no comment except positive ones about him.”
Zampolli, another friend of Cipriani, had nothing but positive things to say about the restaurant magnate, as well. He was not so sanguine about Weinstein.
“A lot of people wanted to be around Harvey Weinstein in the past. I’m sure they would not want to be around him now,” Zampolli said.
—with additional reporting by Oliver Jones in Los Angeles and Lisa Schwartz in New York