Michael Jackson News

  

June 26 (Bloomberg) — Michael Jackson was mourned by fans and friends worldwide today for the infectious pop hits and riveting dance moves that made him one of the most celebrated and emulated entertainers in history.

His career was interrupted by bouts of odd behavior and financial distress then, with his death yesterday at 50, cut short just as he was about to launch what he felt would be a redemptive comeback tour.

Jackson was pronounced dead yesterday afternoon after being rushed to the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. An examination begins today to determine the cause of death, said Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles coroner’s office.

The singer, who was preparing for his first series of concerts in more than a decade, appeared to have suffered a cardiac arrest in his home, UCLA medical center officials said in a statement. His personal physician, who was at the Bel-Air home at the time, tried to resuscitate Jackson, as did paramedics and doctors later at the hospital.

Brian Oxman, a former attorney of Jackson’s and a family friend, said he was concerned about Jackson’s use of prescription painkillers and he warned the singer’s family about possible abuse.

‘Warned Everyone’

“I said one day, we’re going to have this experience. And when Anna Nicole Smith passed away, I said we cannot have this kind of thing with Michael Jackson,” Oxman said today on NBC’s “Today” show. “The result was, I warned everyone, and lo and behold, here we are. I don’t know what caused his death. But I feared this day, and here we are.”

As a singer, songwriter and dancer known as the “King of Pop,” Jackson “transfixed the world like few entertainers before or since,” according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2001. “He has enjoyed a level of superstardom previously known only to Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra.”

Jackson, who won 13 Grammy Awards and sold more than 750 million records, rose to stardom by performing with his brothers in the Jackson 5, then moved on to a solo career that peaked with the 1982 release of “Thriller,” the biggest-selling album in history. In his later years, he became tabloid fodder as he altered his appearance through plastic surgery, faced allegations of child sexual abuse and refinanced debt to stave off bankruptcy.

‘This Is It’

In March, Jackson announced he would embark in a 50-concert engagement in London called “This Is It,” promoted by Anschutz Entertainment Group to raise money. In 2006, Jackson gave Sony Corp. an option to buy half of his 50 percent stake in Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC — whose holdings included songs by the Beatles — allowing him to refinance about $300 million of loans.

At the time of his death, Jackson was rehearsing for the sold-out shows at London’s 20,000-seat O2 arena, with the first concert set for July.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic news today about Michael Jackson,” Thomas J. Barrack, chairman and chief executive of Colony Capital LLC, the Los Angeles-based company that was financing the comeback, said in a statement yesterday. “We were privileged to help support his return to public life for his family, friends and fans, who meant so much to him.”

Michael Joseph Jackson was born on Aug. 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana, the seventh child of a musically gifted family. He was 11 years old when the Jackson 5’s first single, “I Want You Back,” climbed to No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s charts in 1970.

Solo Career

His solo career began in 1971 with the single “Got to Be There.” “Thriller,” his 1982 recording, and especially the 14-minute video made for the title song and released a year later, propelled Jackson into pop stardom’s firmament. It topped the charts for 37 weeks, according to Billboard.

“Billie Jean,” the second single from the “Thriller” album, led the charts for another seven weeks in 1983. It was with that song that Jackson introduced his famous and much- imitated “moonwalk” dance move. His 1987 album, “Bad,” produced seven more hit singles, including the title song.

Jackson’s career gradually was overshadowed by his financial troubles and behavior. He underwent numerous operations to reshape his nose and extend his chin. He befriended a chimpanzee named Bubbles. He was photographed sleeping in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, and attempted to buy the bones of John Merrick, the so-called Elephant Man.

Presley Marriage

Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley, in 1994. They divorced within two years. He then married a nurse, Deborah Jeanne Rowe, and they had a son, Michael Jr., and a daughter, Paris. A third child, Prince Michael II, known as Blanket, was born to Jackson and a surrogate mother in 2002.

Jackson and Rowe had met when Jackson received treatment for vitiligo, a rare disorder that discolors the face and body. Jackson disclosed he had the condition in 1993 to answer critics who said he was intentionally bleaching his skin. A Beverly Hills, California, dermatologist, Arnold Klein, came forward to confirm the claim and say he was treating the pop star.

Jackson also had brushes with the law. In 1993, lawyers for a 13-year-old boy accused him of sexual abuse in a civil lawsuit. Jackson denied the accusations and reached an out-of- court settlement, with the terms kept secret.

In June 2005, he was acquitted by a jury in Santa Maria, California, of charges that he sexually molested a 13-year-old boy in 2003 and served alcohol to the youth with the intent to molest him.

Neverland Ranch

Jackson spent many years out of the public eye, behind the walls of Neverland, a 2,600-acre amusement park-like estate in Los Olivos, California, about 125 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Lavish spending on the ranch, which cost him $17 million as well as $35 million in renovations and improvements, contributed to his financial difficulties.

How one of the world’s most successful entertainers managed to run into money problems was another enduring mystery. The New York Times reported in 2006 that he had earned more than $300 million in royalties since the early 1980s from sales of his recordings, and perhaps as much as $400 million more from concerts, music publishing, endorsements and merchandising.

Planes, Antiques

Alvin Malnik, a former financial adviser to Jackson, told the Times that the singer “never had any concept of fiscal responsibility” and spent millions each year chartering planes and buying antiques and paintings. Others blamed poor judgment by a series of financial advisers to Jackson.

An auction of some of Jackson’s possessions in Beverly Hills, California, was called off in April after the singer sued to block the sale of about 2,000 items, including a trademark crystal-covered glove, a 1999 Rolls Royce Silver Seraph and the entry gate to the ranch.

His personal travails often seemed to eclipse his talents as an entertainer. In 2002 he was widely criticized for dangling one of his infant children over a balcony railing outside a hotel. After his trial he left the U.S. for Bahrain, the Persian Gulf island nation, and traveled to Abu Dhabi and Ireland, while he struggled with his financial problems.

Taylor Friendship

He often turned for solace to his longtime friend, actress Elizabeth Taylor, whom he befriended in 1985 while doing AIDS charity work. Taylor, who is credited with dubbing him the “King of Pop,” yesterday said she was too distraught to comment on Jackson’s death.

To fans and associates in the music industry, it was the songs and performances that mattered.

“He was the consummate entertainer and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever,” Quincy Jones, Jackson’s longtime producer, said in a statement. “To this day, the music we created together on ‘Off The Wall,’ ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ is played in every corner of the world.”

Jackson’s last series of concerts was the HIStory Tour in 1996-1997 and his last studio album was “Invincible” in 2001. He performed at halftime of Super Bowl XXVII in 1993.

Jackson was a “consummate entertainer,” said rock concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith, who worked with Jackson on the HIStory and Thriller tours as well as the Live Aid concerts of the 1980s.

“When he put his mind to something, which I’m sure he was doing with this upcoming tour, he put his heart and soul in it,” Goldsmith said by phone from Cannes, France. “He lived to be on stage and please people.”

Hundreds of fans gathered along Westwood Plaza, near the hospital, as word of the singer’s death spread. Pop radio stations in Los Angeles and around the country switched to Jackson’s music.

“Everything you hear now and heard growing up probably had some Michael Jackson influence,” said Q. Dixon, 24, a sociology major at UCLA. “He was mostly about energy and love. He was just a wonderful person.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurence Arnold in Washington at larnold4@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: June 26, 2009 12:31 EDT
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Jackson lived like king but died awash in debt

AP, Jun 26, 2009 5:00 am PDT

Michael Jackson the singer was also Michael Jackson the billion-dollar business.

Yet after selling more than 61 million albums in the U.S. and having a decade-long attraction open at Disney theme parks, the "King of Pop" died Thursday at age 50 reportedly awash in about $400 million in debt, on the cusp of a final comeback after well over a decade of scandal.

The moonwalking pop star drove the growth of music videos, vaulting cable channel MTV into the popular mainstream after its launch in 1981. His 1982 hit "Thriller," still the second best-selling U.S. album of all time, spawned a John Landis-directed music video that MTV played every hour on the hour.

"The ratings were three or four times what they were normally every time the video came on," said Judy McGrath, the chairman and CEO of Viacom Inc.’s MTV Networks. "He was inextricably tied to the so-called MTV generation."

Five years later, "Bad" sold 22 million copies. In 1991, he signed a $65 million recording deal with Sony.

Jackson was so popular that The Walt Disney Co. hitched its wagon to his star in 1986, opening a 3-D movie at its parks called "Captain EO," executive produced by George Lucas and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The last attraction in Paris closed 12 years later.

One of Jackson’s shrewdest deals at the height of his fame in 1985 was the $47.5 million acquisition of ATV Music, which owned the copyright to songs written by the Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The catalog provided Jackson a steady stream of income and the ability to afford a lavish lifestyle.

He bought the sprawling Neverland ranch in 1988 for $14.6 million, a fantasy-like 2,500-acre property nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara County’s wine country.

But the bombshell hit in 1993 when he was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy.

"That kind of represents the beginning of the walk down a tragic path, financially, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, legally," said Michael Levine, his publicist at the time.

He settled with the boy’s family, but other accounts of his alleged pedophilia began to emerge.

When he ran into further financial problems, he agreed to a deal with Sony in 1995 to merge ATV with Sony’s library of songs and sold Sony music publishing rights for $95 million. Then in 2001, he used his half of the ATV assets as collateral to secure $200 million in loans from Bank of America.

As his financial problems continued, Jackson began to borrow large sums of money, according to a 2002 lawsuit by Union Finance & Investment Corp. that sought $12 million in unpaid fees and expenses.

In 2003, Jackson was arrested on charges that he molested another 13-year-old boy. The 2005 trial, which ultimately ended in an acquittal, brought to light more details of Jackson’s strained finances.

One forensic accountant testified that the singer had an "ongoing cash crisis" and was spending $20 million to $30 million more per year than he earned.

In March of last year, the singer faced foreclosure on Neverland. He also repeatedly failed to make mortgage payments on a house in Los Angeles that had been used for years by his family.

In addition, Jackson was forced to defend himself against a slew of lawsuits in recent years, including a $7 million claim from Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the second son of the king of Bahrain.

Memorabilia auctions were frequently announced but became the subject of legal wrangling and were often canceled.

Time and again, however, Jackson found a way to wring cash out of high-value assets, borrowing tens of millions at a time or leaning on wealthy friends for advice, if not for money.

Al Khalifa, 33, took Jackson under his wing after his acquittal, moving him to the small Gulf estate and showering him with money.

In his lawsuit, Al Khalifa claimed he gave Jackson millions of dollars to help shore up his finances, cut an album, write an autobiography and subsidize his lifestyle — including more than $300,000 for a "motivational guru." The lawsuit was settled last year for an undisclosed amount. Neither the album nor book was ever produced.

Another wealthy benefactor came to Jackson’s aid last year as he faced the prospect of losing Neverland in a public auction.

Billionaire Thomas Barrack, chairman and CEO of Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm Colony Capital LLC, agreed to bail out the singer and set up a joint venture with Jackson that took ownership of the vast estate.

Barrack was unavailable for comment Thursday, but referred to the singer in a statement as a "gentle, talented and compassionate man."

A final piece of the financial jigsaw puzzle fell into place in March, when billionaire Philip Anschutz’ concert promotion company AEG Live announced it would promote 50 shows in London’s O2 arena. Tickets sold out, and the first show of the "This is It" tour was set for July 8.

Jackson, who has won 13 Grammys, hadn’t toured since 1997. His last studio album, "Invincible," was released in 2001.

But the opening date was later postponed to July 13 and some shows moved back to March 2010, fueling speculation that Jackson was suffering from health ailments that could curtail his comeback bid.

His death, caused by cardiac arrest according to his brother Jermaine, raised the question whether an insurer would refund money to ticketholders. AEG Live did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Jackson was practicing for the concert in Los Angeles at the Staples Center with Kenny Ortega, a choreographer and director of the "High School Musical" movies, who has worked on previous Jackson videos like "Dangerous" in 1993.

"We had a 25-year friendship. This is all too much to comprehend," Ortega said in a statement. "This was the world’s greatest performer and the world will miss him."

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