Man in the Mirror

I wanted to change the world, so I got up one morning and looked in the mirror. That one looking back said: There is not much time left.... MICHAEL JACKSON

    Sony/ATV Catalogue & The Beatles Music


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    Sony/ATV Catalogue & The Beatles Music

    Post  Moonlight on Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:26 pm

    Some articles in relation to some background info, in relation to the Apple Corps, V Apple Inc disputes, iTunes and the run up to the release of The Beatles' remasters.

    Apple wins court case against Beatles
    by Ardi Kolah, Brand Republic 08-May-06, 17:45

    LONDON - Apple Computers is not in breach of a trademark agreement made 15 years ago with The Beatles' record label Apple Corps, the High Court has ruled today.

    Today's judgment in favour of Apple Computers may not be final because an appeal to the Court of Appeal or possibly the European Court of Justice may be on the cards and could reverse the decision of the High Court.

    Full article Here:

    Beatles' friend quits top job at Apple Corps
    Neil Aspinall leaves after 40 years
    April 10, 2007

    Here is the statement issued today by Apple Corps:

    London, England, Tuesday, April 10, 2007 – Today Apple Corps Ltd. announced that Jeff Jones will become Chief Executive Officer of Apple Corps Ltd.
    Apple welcomes Jeff, who comes with over 30 years experience in the music business with a brilliant record. He leaves his position of Executive Vice President, Legacy Recordings/Sony BMG Catalog Worldwide where he has been since 1995.
    Apple also announces the departure of Neil Aspinall, who had been with John, Paul, George and Ringo for a spectacular 40 plus years, during which he played an indispensable role for the four. He was there since the inception of the band in Liverpool and has meant so much to the Beatles' family for all these years and still does. However, he has decided to move on. Apple as a whole, and each member of this company, wishes him great success in whatever endeavor he chooses to pursue in the future.

    Article, Discussion & various additional links:

    Update (4/12/07) New York Times Beatle desk reporter Allan Kozinn has his report on the Aspinall situation. He explains that Neil was answerable to Apple’s board, "which is to say the Beatles or their representatives (who in turn are answerable to the Beatles who appointed them), and he could not move forward on any of these projects without their approval." "He was the Beatles’ alter ego, often the bad cop to their good cop. ... But the Beatles have the last word on what will be released, and when and whether to pursue bootleggers or even authors who write about bootlegs. Mr. Aspinall and Apple’s lawyers simply do their bidding," Kozinn writes.
    He concludes reiterating the point that Jeff Jones could end up being very good for the Beatles' catalog, citing his work with his former employer Sony Legacy with reissues by the Byrds, Miles Davis and others.
    And various blogs are coming up with different theories about Aspinall's departure, citing his health or just a wish to retire. But sources tell us the path down this road may have actually begun with another departure from the Apple ranks sometime earlier.

    MORNING UPDATE: The UK Daily Mirror reports Aspinall parted company with Apple after a series of "differences" between him and the board. "Neil quit because he couldn't deal with interference from the board at Apple," the Mirror quotes an insider. The Mirror story concludes, "The board is not Paul and Ringo - it's lawyers and accountants. They want to make as much money as possible." Further, a Daily Mail story says, "Mr Aspinall is thought to have disagreed with moves to allow legal downloads of the Beatles' music on the Apple iTunes site. The source added: 'The board has been blocking and questioning the things Neil wants to do. The way the board want to play it is for money, money, money. All the Beatles albums - the entire back catalogue - is going to be re-released.' "

    Business 2.0 included a different version of the insider quote, saying, "The board is not Paul and Ringo - it's lawyers and accountants. They want to make as much money as possible. There is a plan to flood the market and put out a newly-remastered Beatles back catalogue. Neil was against making the Beatles a cash cow."

    Former McCartney publicist Geoff Baker was quoted by the Associated Press and the BBC as observing, "Neil was the architect of all the Beatles' success over the past 15 or 20 years. I can't see how the Beatles legacy will be looked after as well without him. I'm amazed that Paul and Ringo are letting this happen."

    source & more at:

    Hello Goodbye: Beatles' 30-Year Adviser Leaves

    Yesterday, on the 37th anniversary of Paul McCartney leaving the Beatles, there was another scandal in the group's world.
    Neil Aspinall, the group's adviser since they broke up in 1970, was ousted from his position by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono. Aspinall has literally been the invisible Beatle all these years, keeping the group's business running and making sure they made billions of dollars.

    But Aspinall, whom this column has always admired for his devotion and loyalty, recently came up against some challenges of the modern music business.
    He took the Beatles into their recently settled lawsuit against Apple Inc. He also has been criticized for not letting the Beatles' albums be downloaded, not issuing remastered albums and not maximizing the group's potential in new areas.

    Aspinall, who had an accounting background, came in and reorganized Apple Records as Apple Corps.
    But Aspinall ran into trouble starting with the lawsuit against Apple Computers a couple of years ago. Sources say that he passed on an offered settlement of around $100 million and then was shocked to see the Beatles lose the case in court.
    Recently, Aspinall helped negotiate a final settlement right before the appeals decision was heard.
    "But it was far less than the $100 million," a source said. "And everyone was unhappy."

    Far more complicated are the issues of the Beatles and downloading. So far, the group's music is unavailable on a legal download service.
    Aspinall's theory has been that this keeps the CDs selling. He may be right. Currently, 40-year-old albums like "Abbey Road," "Sgt, Pepper" and the "White Album" are ranked around No. 100 on
    On the other hand, critics complain that this method has severely cut off the group from new generations of consumers who only like their music in that form.

    And there's more: The Beatles are currently suing EMI Music for another $60 million in misplaced royalties. Aspinall won a similar suit for them 18 years ago, increasing their royalty rate on CDs and recovering millions.
    In the new suit, however, the Beatles are also demanding the impossible: rights to their master recordings, which EMI owns.
    EMI, for sale now with no real bidders and dwindling fortunes, can't afford to lose those masters. But the masters ownership means the company has a major say in the downloading of Beatles music, which Aspinall resists.
    Consequently, the new downloading deal EMI has just made with Apple's iTunes excludes only the Beatles. Plus, a frustrated McCartney has just exited EMI after 40 years, taking his solo catalog with him.

    Aspinall, some say, has not been able to untangle this mess.
    Aspinall's replacement is Jeff Jones, a much-admired executive from Sony BMG who is said to be welcome by Beatles fans as well as the board of directors.

    Choosing someone from Sony BMG makes sense, since the Beatles are inextricably tied to Sony's music publishing division. In May 2008, Sony/ATV Music Publishing will exercise its right to buy out partner Michael Jackson and will own the Beatles catalog of songs outright.

    Jones will likely fix a lot of situations, including the mysterious absence of DVDs for the movies "Help!" and "Let It Be" and the severely needed remastering of the group's catalog.
    But Apple's press release announcing Aspinall's exit seems a little unkind for a group that preached "all you need is love."
    It ended with the words: "We wish him well in all his future endeavors." Ouch!

    Full article here:,2933,265245,00.html#3

    Geoff Baker astonished the Neil Aspinall has left Apple.
    Here’s a clearinghouse of many stories around Neil Aspinall’s departure. All of these articles give various reasons for his leaving the label. Some range from ill health problems to problems with the board to technological issues. Whatever reasons you give for his departure, the end result is still the same.
    Full article:


    Aspinall’s departure comes just two months after Apple Corps settled a trademark squabble with computer company Apple, a deal that could finally pave the way for the Fab Four's songs to be sold on the iTunes music store.
    At the time, Aspinall said it was great to put the dispute behind them, with the years ahead expected to be very exciting.
    The Beatles have been high-profile absentees from internet music services such as iTunes, but it emerged during the trial of the trademark dispute that Apple Corps was preparing the band's catalogue to be sold online for the first time.

    Full Article:

    Last edited by Moonlight on Thu Dec 03, 2009 8:27 pm; edited 1 time in total

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    Re: Sony/ATV Catalogue & The Beatles Music

    Post  Moonlight on Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 pm

    Beatles to release back catalogue online
    by Joanne Payne, Brand Republic 12-Apr-07, 12:15

    LONDON - The Beatles back catalogue will now be available to download after the band settled its royalty dispute with record label EMI.

    Apple Corps, the band's organisation, is now able to negotiate its own royalties deals with EMI about download services such as iTunes. There has not yet been an indication of a potential date when downloads will be available.

    The band and its representatives began legal proceedings against EMI in December 2005 when it claimed EMI had underpaid them by £30m between 1994 and 1999. However related legal proceedings have been active between the parties for many years.
    It is thought that when The Beatles back catalogue, including albums 'Abbey Road', 'Help!', 'Rubber Soul' and 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band', is for sale through download, the collection will reap millions in royalties for Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and relations of George Harrison and John Lennon.

    Beatles songs owner moots use in advertising
    by Nikki Sandison, Brand Republic 03-Jan-08, 09:00

    LONDON - Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which owns the rights to The Beatles' back catalogue, is inviting offers to use the band's hits in ads.
    Sony/ATV Music Publishing is a 50:50 joint venture between Sony and pop star Michael Jackson, who originally bought Northern Songs, which owns The Beatles back catalogue.

    The company has said that the catalogue may be used for selected "brand partnerships" that enhance the original music's reputation.
    Sony/ATV is expected to consider similar offers to the £5m deal that allowed Microsoft to use the Rolling Stones' 'Start Me Up' in a global advertising campaign.

    The company does not need permission from Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono or the family of George Harrison to make the deals, but Martin Bandier, chief executive of Sony/ATV, said that he felt a "moral obligation" to discuss uses of the catalogue with them.

    Hollywood studios are said to be prepared to offer millions of dollars to use original Beatles music on soundtracks. Rap stars have also been allowed to "reference" Beatles songs to create new hits so long as they don't carry a "bad message".

    In August last year, Beatles song 'All You Need is Love' was used in a US ad for Procter & Gamble's nappy brand Luvs after advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi purchased the rights to use it from Sony/ATV.
    The use of the song, which became a peace anthem during the Vietnam war, angered Beatles fans around the world, leading to a deluge of complaints on fan forums and sites.

    Beatles songs on iTunes: Sony/ATV says it's 'untrue'
    March 11th, 2008 by Greg Sandoval Tagged with: apple, beatles, itunes

    The company that owns the rights to a vast majority of the Beatles music catalogue has questioned reports that the Fab Four have cut a deal with Steve Jobs.

    Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the joint venture owned by Sony and singer Michael Jackson, has thrown cold water on reports out of London that the Beatles catalogue would soon be available on iTunes. A spokeswoman for Sony/ATV Music Publishing told sister site CNET that the reports are "untrue."

    Sony/ATV is a pretty good source. While EMI Group owns the recording rights to the Beatles catalogue, Sony and Jackson own the rights to the vast majority of the catalogue's publishing rights. Had a deal been cut, Sony/ATV would "absolutely be informed," the Sony/ATV spokeswoman said.

    Stories about the Fab Four heading to iTunes crop up every few months, it seems, and rumours and unconfirmed reports have been circulating for five years. This time, the story appeared to have legs as it was reported by three large British newspapers. They all cited unnamed sources.
    A high-level music industry source said an agreement between the Beatles and Apple could still get inked in 2008 but that it hasn't been finished.
    Representatives for EMI and Apple declined to comment for the story.

    One has to wonder why these rumours and unconfirmed reports continue to crop up. Is it a case of wishful thinking on the part of Beatles fans or Apple?
    The availability of the Beatles, the best-selling band of all time, on iTunes would send the most dramatic signal to date that digital downloads are an integral part of mainstream music, said Susan Kevorkian, a music analyst with research group IDC.
    "It's important for iTunes and online music services in general because it legitimises IP-based music services," Kevorkian said. "It also points to the fact that digital music services are maturing when important groups that have been high-profile holdouts come onboard."
    In the last several years, Madonna, Led Zeppelin, and Metallica -- artists who once spurned Internet sales of their music -- reversed themselves and embraced iTunes.

    Earlier Monday (US time), Chris Castle, a music lawyer and former record label executive predicted that a Web-based Beatlemania would be big for iTunes and Beatles fans alike.
    He said the Beatles could release formerly unreleased music "that they might have lying around," and the offering could also include some kind of video element. He said that even though the Beatles broke up nearly 40 years ago, Castle said Apple Corps, the Beatles' media company, would find a way to "dress up the offering" so that it would create excitement even among longtime Beatles fans.

    Jeff Jones, the new head of Apple Corps, "is known as a catalogue genius," Castle said. "If there is anybody that can figure out how to make this work it's him. I would expect to see some pleasant surprises from Jeff."
    Castle said that what fans likely won't find with a Beatles offering on iTunes is a discount.
    "This is a band that has sold music at premium prices for four decades," Castle said. "They've never been discounted. I would be shocked to see any competition on price. Think about it. The Beatles have kept (their brand) precious and popular for a long time. They've done this by knowing how to treat their fans and knowing what didn't work for them."

    The Beatles were unlikely candidates to join iTunes. Apple Corps had a series of trademark disputes with Apple Inc. going back to 1976 when Beatle guitarist George Harrison saw an ad for the then Apple Computer. The band thought the new company had infringed on their trademark and sued. The case was settled out of court.

    There were other legal skirmishes along way, but last year, Paul McCartney told reporters in Great Britain that he thought a deal with Apple CEO Steve Jobs was close to being finalised.

    If and when the Beatles arrive at iTunes, there'll be plenty of people who will ask, "Why all the fuss?" The music has been available for free on peer-to-peer sites for years.
    According to Castle, the Beatles were an unprecedented combination of talent and timing, and even after all this time, still possess an enormous following.
    "You had the musical genius, business genius, and extraordinary popularity that crossed all genres and formats," Castle said. "You've never had that before or since.",2000070799,339286668,00.htm

    Last edited by Moonlight on Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:55 pm; edited 1 time in total

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    Re: Sony/ATV Catalogue & The Beatles Music

    Post  Moonlight on Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:50 pm

    Beatles' Pal Neil Aspinall Dies
    8:27pm UK, Monday March 24, 2008
    Neil Aspinall, a close friend of the Beatles and the man who ran the Apple music empire, has died, his family has revealed.

    He died in hospital in New York after a brief illness and is survived by his wife Suzy and five children.

    Full Article:

    Neil Aspinall, 'the fifth Beatle', dies aged 66

    He died in hospital in New York, where he had reportedly been receiving treatment for lung cancer.

    Full Article:



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    Re: Sony/ATV Catalogue & The Beatles Music

    Post  Moonlight on Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:59 pm

    Beatles to get own Rock Band computer game
    by Ben Bold, Brand Republic 31-Oct-08, 09:00

    LONDON - Beatles fans will soon be able to jam along to their favourite classic tracks in a special edition of videogame Rock Band, following a deal between the band's label Apple Corps, game developer Harmonix and MTV Games, which has also been approved by the band's surviving members.

    EMI Music, Harrisongs and Sony/ATV Music Publishing have also agreed to make the Beatles' music available in interactive video game format. The game will appear on retailer shelves next year.

    The Beatles game has the full backing of and input from Beatles Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr; as well as the widows of George Harrison and John Lennon - Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono Lennon.
    Giles Martin, the son of The Beatles' producer George Martin and the co-producer of The Beatles' 'Love' project, is producing the musical aspect of the game.

    The original 'Rock Band' has sold 2.5m copies and brought in extra revenue from downloads, with more than 15m have sold at $1.99 each. The game is available on Playstation 3, Xbox and Wii consoles.

    Full Article:

    The Beatles’ Remastered Albums Due September 9, 2009
    4/7/09, 9:22 am EST
    On September 9, 2009, after a nearly 22-year wait, digitally remastered versions of all of the Beatles studio albums will be released, a press release has confirmed

    A crew of engineers at London’s Abbey Road Studios have spent four years working on the remasters using new technology and vintage equipment, the press release says, in an effort to preserve “the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings” and ensure “the highest fidelity the catalog has seen since its original release.”

    The press release didn’t include news regarding a possible deal with iTunes or another digital-music vendor to distribute the catalog digitally: “Discussions regarding the digital distribution of the catalog will continue. There is no further information available at this time,” the press release reads. Both Apple Corps. and Paul McCartney have expressed reluctance to release the Beatles’ music digitally until all the albums had been remastered. The solo work of each of the four Beatles is available on iTunes.

    Full Article:

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    Richard Siklos, Fortune Magazine's ~ Financial overview

    Post  Moonlight on Thu Dec 03, 2009 8:22 pm

    The fight over Michael's millions The King of Pop's posthumous success has produced a gusher of money. Now, where his estate is concerned, the Michael Jackson show is just getting started

    By Richard Siklos, editor at large Last Updated: October 23, 2009: 2:25 PM ET
    (Fortune Magazine)

    -- On a recent Friday afternoon, workers toiled away at Neverland Ranch as part of a curious restoration effort that accelerated after Michael Jackson's sudden death on June 25. The main grounds of the 2,700-acre property had been cleared of encroaching chaparral and were now close to the condition they had been in when Jackson last set foot here some five years ago.
    The flower beds next to the Disneyland-replica train station were pristine, though the trains were in storage and the midway amusement rides and zoo animals that once populated the property were gone. The Tudor-style mansion, guesthouse, and separate movie theater/dance studio were in move-in condition. The theater even had fresh candy at its concession stand, though the building's only inhabitant was a wayward bat stranded in the restroom.
    It was a bit sad and eerie, albeit, from an MTV Cribs kind of viewpoint, quite excellent.

    Through all the hoopla following Jackson's death, no one has said publicly what will become of Neverland, which Los Angeles private equity firm Colony Capital took control of after the property nearly went into foreclosure last year.

    The Jackson family's desire to have Michael's body interred here proved too complicated, as has the notion of turning it into a Graceland-like destination for fans. There is talk of moving some of the property's structures, which include a giraffe barn, to Las Vegas with an eye to establishing a Neverland attraction there and selling the ranch.
    Under terms of an agreement struck with Jackson after Colony purchased the note on the property for $23.5 million, when Neverland is eventually sold, Colony will recoup its investment in the note plus accrued interest, its management and upkeep expenses, and around 12% of everything above that as a success fee. The rest will go to Jackson's estate.
    While he declined to confirm the details of his arrangement with Jackson, Tom Barrack, the CEO of Colony, says the Neverland property ought to be worth $60 million to $70 million.
    If so, that would be just one source of a sudden gusher of money into Jackson's estate, the bulk of which he left to his mother and three young children.

    Two years ago Jackson was headed for insolvency, a consequence of having barely worked in nearly a decade, a period during which he fought child molestation charges and became better known for his eccentricities than for his musical skills. The deal with Colony, and Jackson's decision to stage a series of comeback concerts, were his way out from under debts that had grown from $90 million a decade ago to around $435 million today.

    Though Jackson made some savvy investments early in his career, his loans piled up through an astonishing combination of careless financial decisions -- made with an oft-changing and colorful parade of business advisers -- a mountain of legal bills and distractions, and uncontrollable spending.
    "When it came to money, he was almost a contradiction," says Randy Phillips, who runs the company that planned to stage Jackson's comeback. "He didn't care about money but liked to spend money and knew that he had to make money."

    His demise might have been a tragic postscript to a faded career. Instead, the singer is having a posthumous comeback that promises to dwarf that of Elvis Presley (whose daughter Jackson was once married to). This year Jackson's estate stands to bring in close to $200 million from music sales, merchandising, and book deals; an exhibition of memorabilia; and especially a hastily made documentary based on his comeback concert rehearsals that hits theaters Oct. 28.

    The film, "This Is It," is tracking to be a box office success -- with more tickets presold than the next "Twilight" installment -- and riches from DVD sales could follow. Jackson has sold some 5 million albums and 10 million downloads since his death in the U.S. alone, according to Soundscan, and plans are in the works for at least two albums of unreleased songs. (To put that in perspective, he had sold just under 300,000 records in the half-year before his death.)

    In all, Jackson's estate would likely be worth $100 million or more if it were liquidated today, but properly managed, it ought to be worth multiples more in time.

    The story of Michael's millions -- reconstructed here from private documents, court files, and dozens of interviews with people who worked with the singer -- is as off-the-wall as he was. Barrack recalls being charmed by the self-proclaimed King of Pop when he first met him last year but deeply skeptical about doing business with him.
    "Everybody said two things about him," Barrack says. "Firstly, if Michael Jackson came back it would be the greatest thing in music history. And secondly, it would never happen." Improbably, both have come true.

    A brief recounting of tragic and familiar facts: Jackson died suddenly in Los Angeles at age 50 amid final rehearsals for what was expected to be a 50-date gig at London's O2 arena. The cause was a combination of prescription drugs, including a surgical anesthetic, propofol, that Jackson was reportedly being given to treat insomnia. The death is being treated as a homicide, and an investigation continues.

    As demand for the London shows demonstrated -- all 800,000 tickets sold out within five hours -- Jackson, despite his tabloid travails, was still a megastar. From child stardom with his brothers in the group the Jackson 5, the Gary, Ind., native skyrocketed as a solo act in the 1980s. His album "Thriller" has sold more than 70 million copies, and he is the biggest-selling recording artist of all time.

    Between "Thriller," its very successful follow-up, "Bad," and a 120-date stadium tour and sponsorship deals, Jackson earned as much as $350 million, estimates his manager during that period, Frank DiLeo. Paul McCartney, with whom Jackson recorded the single "Say Say Say," turned him on to the idea of buying music publishing rights, reportedly saying, "This is the way to make big money."

    Jackson began buying some publishing catalogues with his earnings, including those of Sly and the Family Stone. But McCartney ended up miffed when, in 1985, Jackson -- with the help of his then-lawyer, John Branca -- paid $47.5 million for ATV Music Publishing, a catalogue that included more than 250 Beatles songs. (It was around this time that Jackson also bought Neverland, for $17 million in cash, after visiting McCartney, who happened to be renting it during a video shoot for "Say Say Say.")
    Separately, Jackson set up a company called MiJac to hold the publishing rights for what would eventually be eight studio albums of his own music, plus the other catalogues he owned pre-ATV.

    In the 1990s, Jackson's ambitions grew ever larger, but his meteor started to sputter. He faced accusations of child molestation and settled a civil suit for $15 million. He burned through piles of money on movies and other ventures that didn't pan out. In 1995 he merged ATV with a publishing business owned by his recording label, Sony (SNE), in a deal that valued ATV at far more than what Jackson had paid -- $115 million plus half the combined company.

    Jackson wanted to transcend being a music performer by making films and theme park attractions and videogames. His short video, "Captain EO," directed by Francis Ford Coppola, was shown in 3-D at Disney theme parks. But the only feature movie project he ever completed, called "Moonwalker," failed to find a U.S. distributor when it was released.

    By the late 1990s, according to court filings, Jackson had borrowed $90 million from NationsBank, collateralized by his half-interest in what was now called Sony/ ATV. Myung-Ho Lee, a Korean businessman who for a time was Jackson's business manager, claimed in a lawsuit that he lined up "desperately needed financing" from Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) (which had merged with NationsBank) to refinance that loan and borrow more -- increasing Jackson's debts to $220 million.
    Some of that new money was pumped into dotcom ventures, including, a gaming company, and a fuel-cell business. In court papers Lee also claimed he was not paid for his services and accused Jackson of "bizarre and extravagant" behavior. (Jackson claimed in response that it was Lee who had defrauded him.) "Michael Jackson was -- and is -- a ticking financial time bomb waiting to explode at any moment," Lee said in his complaint.
    The case was settled not long after Jackson's last studio album, "Invincible," was released, in 2001. Compared with his past chart busters, "Invincible" had lackluster sales, and Jackson was unhappy.

    Bob Daly, who ran Warner Music (WMG) for years and later the Warner Bros. studio, knew Jackson through his wife, the songwriter Carol Bayer Sager, to whom Jackson had dedicated the album. One day Jackson asked Daly, as a favor, to investigate whether Sony had cheated him in the making of the album. Daly reviewed the album's financing and found nothing untoward.
    "When I told him that, he sort of disappeared on me," recalls Daly. "Some people don't like hearing what they don't want to hear." Soon after, Jackson had a blowup with Sony during which he was photographed carrying a placard portraying Sony Music's then chief as a devil-like figure.

    Before long Jackson and Sony Music parted ways -- a situation that layered tension and mistrust onto his continuing partnership in Sony/ATV, which was operated as a separate entity from the music business.
    At this point Jackson had a staff (or "organization," as he liked to say) numbering some 50 people on his payroll. Upkeep at Neverland was costing upwards of $4 million a year, and Jackson was also underwriting the staff and upkeep costs of the Encino, Calif., compound where his mother and other family members lived.

    Jackson sought help from a colorful roster of managers and advisers that included a guy who Jackson didn't realize was a gay porn producer, a Florida lawyer who once represented mobster Meyer Lansky, a prominent member of the Nation of Islam, and Michael's own brother Randy.

    Finances took a back seat as Jackson spent two years fighting new child molestation charges filed against him in 2003. During his successful defense, according to court papers, Jackson received $2 million from Sheikh Abdulla, the 33-year-old son of the ruler of Bahrain, to help foot his legal bills.
    The sheikh, who had ambitions to be in the music business, had taken a shine to Jackson after being introduced by Michael's brother Jermaine. He says in court papers that he took care of the utility bills at Neverland for a time and helped Michael arrange his first mortgage on the property. The sheikh would describe his new friend as "a person who is very switched on, a fantastic businessman and fantastic intellectual."

    Several weeks before he was acquitted, Jackson attended the funeral of lawyer Johnny Cochrane. There Jackson confessed his financial straits to Ron Burkle, the Yucaipa Cos. financier, whom Jackson had befriended.
    Jackson asked Burkle if he would have an accountant look at Jackson's troubled finances. Burkle agreed, eventually telling the singer that his spending was untenable and he either needed to cut back dramatically or go back to work.
    But Jackson told him, as he did others, that under no circumstances did he want to go back to performing. At the very least, Burkle insisted that Jackson begin signing all his own checks so that he could see how much he was paying for things.

    Most of Neverland's staff was laid off, and Jackson -- who said he felt violated after police raided his home -- vowed never to return there. Soon after his acquittal, Jackson was living in Bahrain with his children as a guest of the sheikh.
    Amid all the negative publicity swirling around Jackson, Bank of America quietly sold the loans it held on Jackson's interest in Sony/ATV, MiJac, and Neverland at a steep discount to Fortress Investments (FIG), a big hedge fund that specialized in distressed assets.

    Because of covenant breaches and penalties, the loans now carried stiff terms, with an interest rate in the mid-teens, say two people who were involved in Jackson's finances.
    Jackson's income consisted of small dividends from Sony/ATV, $10 million or so from MiJac, plus roughly $10 million from music royalties and other sources -- but that was not enough to stay ahead of his mounting interest payments and his legal and living expenses.
    "He always was asset rich and cash-flow poor," one of these people says. "The best way to think about it is a middle-income family that spends too much on their credit card and doesn't care about the fees."

    In late 2005, Jackson received a fax from Robert Wiesenthal, the chief financial officer of Sony's U.S. business. Wiesenthal understood that Jackson was days from defaulting on his Fortress publishing loan and offered to meet to discuss ways to help.
    Besides aiding a partner, Sony was concerned that Jackson's half of Sony/ATV could end up in bankruptcy court -- or in the hands of an outsider like Burkle or Fortress. (Burkle declined to be interviewed, and Fortress did not respond to an interview request.)

    Howard Stringer, Sony Corp.'s chairman, dispatched Wiesenthal to Dubai. In a gilded hotel suite, Wiesenthal met with Jackson and several of the sheikh's advisers and explained that Sony had lined up bankers from Citi who were willing to refinance Jackson's ATV debt on much better terms. And Sony agreed to a dividend policy from the publishing company that would help cover interest payments on the ATV loan.

    In exchange, Sony received a freer hand to make investment decisions without Jackson's approval; a right of refusal on his stake; and an option to buy half of Jackson's half for around $250 million. To everyone else's surprise, Fortress exercised a right it held to match any financing terms and held onto its Jackson loans, though only for a short term.

    Problems solved? Of course not. In Bahrain, Abdulla had given Jackson use of a Rolls-Royce and a Maybach and bought him jewelry and watches and a gold statue. But after a few months their relationship became another tale of mutual hurt.
    Jackson left Bahrain, and Abdulla sued him for reneging on an agreement to start a label and record songs together -- including a Hurricane Katrina relief song they'd spent weeks preparing. Jackson claimed that he either did not know what he was signing or was misled. The case went to trial in London but was settled just before Jackson was to testify.

    Jackson moved mostly around Europe with his children, at one point in 2006 living in Ireland and contemplating settling there. According to Raymone Bain, Jackson's spokeswoman and general manager at the time, although Jackson was focusing on raising his children, he was also determined to revive his career.
    Jackson told Bain, a crisis specialist who had been spokeswoman for incarcerated D.C. mayor Marion Barry, that two constant subjects of media inquiry were off-limits: his children and his finances. "My finances are my business," he said. "Let them think I'm broke."

    Jackson invited Bob Sillerman, the Wall Street entrepreneur who had acquired Elvis Presley Enterprises, to visit him in Ireland to talk about ways to turn Neverland into a fan destination.

    And although he had been hands-off at Sony/ATV, he was excited about acquisitions the company was making, even calling the legendary songwriter Mike Stoller before the company acquired the catalogue owned by him and Jerry Lieber, which, to Jackson's delight, included the Elvis hits "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock." "He wanted to really assure Jerry and me that we would be in the best of hands," recalls Stoller.

    The Fortress loans were coming due yet again at the end of December 2007. Barclays refinanced the $300 million loan against Sony/ATV from Fortress. HSBC (HBC) lent $30 million against MiJac. Plainfield Asset Management, a hedge fund, loaned another $40 million against MiJac at a 16% interest rate on terms that allowed Jackson to defer payments while the amount due grew.
    The financing was supposed to enable Jackson to settle 13 outstanding lawsuits and still have roughly $11 million on hand for creative ventures.

    The other loans against Sony/ATV and MiJac were both structured so that Jackson was unable to access any of the money -- dividends and profits went directly toward debt payments. And additional money was raised to have "interest reserves" that would make interest payments when Jackson couldn't.

    Frank DiLeo, Jackson's manager during his heyday, still can't believe the star let it all pile up. "I want to wake him up and slap him," he says.
    Jackson was still, according to two people who advised him, running a deficit of $10 million to $15 million a year beyond a similar amount that he would bring in from royalties and new ventures like a special 25th anniversary "Thriller" album released last year.

    Not counting financing charges, last year Jackson's personal expenses were around $8 million, says an adviser who reviewed his books -- counting everything from rent and Neverland upkeep to security, child care, and tutoring Jackson was receiving for moviemaking.

    Fortress had held onto the mortgage on Neverland, and in early 2008 -- to the surprise of Bain and some of Jackson's other former advisers -- reports emerged that Neverland was going to be sold in a foreclosure auction, only to be "saved" for Jackson by Colony Capital.
    By then Bain was out of the picture after Jackson had changed his phone numbers, which he did frequently. This time he didn't give her the new ones. Several months before he died, Bain filed a $44 million lawsuit against Jackson for, you guessed it, unpaid services.

    "This is the saddest story in history," says Tohme Tohme, the man who succeeded Bain. "I had no purpose except to help him, to bring Michael Jackson back and make him the King of Pop. One consolation for me: I did it. He died the King."
    In the days following Jackson's death, Tohme was portrayed in media reports as a mysterious if not sinister figure -- a portrait he feels besmirched him. A longtime Los Angeleno of Lebanese heritage and habitué of the Bel Air Hotel, Tohme comes from outside the entertainment business but declines to say what businesses he is in.
    "If you are writing about Linda Lovelace, you don't need to know about John Holmes," he laughs, making an unexpected reference to 1970s porn stars.
    Say what you will, Tohme was able to get Jackson working again. Tohme says that he has known the Jackson family for years, and that Jermaine asked Tohme to help his brother out in early 2008 when Neverland faced foreclosure.

    Tohme had done some work with Colony Capital, which has done $39 billion worth of transactions since 1991 and owns 9% of French retailer Carrefour. Tohme persuaded Colony's Barrack to meet with Michael in Las Vegas at the rented stucco compound where the King of Pop and his kids were living. Colony owns the Vegas Hilton, and Barrack had played a role in resuscitating the career of Barry Manilow via a five-year run of shows there.
    Barrack also has a ranch near Neverland, and he expressed interest in both Neverland and some kind of permanent Vegas show based on Jackson's music.

    He in turn spoke to Phil Anschutz, the owner of AEG (it stands for Anschutz Entertainment Group), which led to a meeting between Anschutz and Jackson at the MGM Grand late last year. Jackson was "very laser focused," says AEG Live's Phillips, who also attended. "He wanted to meet the guy who owned the company."
    AEG and Tohme subsequently hashed out Jackson's deal for what eventually became 50 shows. Among its terms: Jackson would get 90% of all profits, and AEG would advance some $15 million toward the purchase of a palatial house that had been built by Prince Jefri of Brunei in Las Vegas, which had been listed for more than $100 million and which Jackson envisioned as his new Neverland.

    But first AEG had to pay $5 million to Sheikh Abdulla to finally settle his dispute with Jackson (a figure that hasn't previously been disclosed). Tohme worked on other deals on Jackson's behalf, including one for a "Thriller"-based show on Broadway, TV specials, a film, and even a casino.

    But several weeks before his death, there was fresh unrest in Jackson's world. Tohme was on the outs after Jackson was upset by the way he managed an auction of truckloads of his eclectic personal possessions this past April.
    Jackson was apparently horrified to see the catalogue on the Internet, and the auction ended up being stopped after Jackson sued. (Tohme denies ever receiving a letter from Jackson dismissing him and says he hasn't been paid for the work he did for the singer.)

    Around that time, Jackson brought back his old manager DiLeo, who in turn helped bring back John Branca, who had been Jackson's lawyer for the better part of three decades and helped him buy ATV, but with whom the singer had a sometimes strained relationship. Branca, who declined to be interviewed, has said that he last stopped working for Jackson in 2006 because he didn't like the people Jackson was surrounding himself with.

    Some in the Jackson orbit, including his father, Joe (with whom Michael had long-standing and very public differences), have contended that Michael was manipulated by people without his son's best interests in mind and hint at nefarious forces behind his demise.

    Both the rented $100,000-a-month Bel Air mansion where Jackson fell ill and a doctor who lived with him -- who was to be paid $150,000 a month -- were being funded by AEG. Phillips, the president of AEG Live, says he objected to having the doctor, but Michael Jackson insisted, saying that his body was their venture's most important asset.
    "It's easy to make us look like the corporate villains who took advantage of Michael Jackson," Phillips told me one day in his office near Los Angeles' Staples Center, which AEG owns and where Jackson held those final rehearsals. "It's quite the opposite -- we were the people who empowered Michael Jackson and gave him his dream back."

    AEG, despite having invested close to $30 million in Jackson's unrealized dream, will make money on its involvement with the estate, thanks largely to the rehearsal footage that was shot and the swiftness with which AEG and Jackson's executors formulated a plan to salvage a calamitous situation.

    Sony paid what one company insider called an unprecedented $60 million to Jackson and AEG for the rights to release "This Is It" -- a price justified in part by the fact that the film deal precluded, for now, a televised tribute concert recreating Jackson's fateful stage show, which AEG has explored.
    The movie is slated for a limited, two-week run. But where his estate is concerned, the Michael Jackson show is only just underway.

    New creditor claims are being filed on a weekly basis, and yet to be resolved is whether Jackson's family can get along with the executors who were named in Jackson's 2002 will: Branca and music industry veteran John McClain.
    Katherine Jackson's attorneys have accused the executors of conflicts of interest (their precise objections are sealed from public view) while criticizing aspects of the deals they struck with Sony and AEG.
    The probate judge, Mitchell Beckloff, recently took the unusual step of granting Katherine the ability to challenge the executors without jeopardizing her inheritance, and both sides' lawyers have been trying to work out a compromise that would avoid a trial.

    Estate lawyers know that high-profile celebrity cases can drag on for years, the most extreme example being Marilyn Monroe's probate, which lasted more than three decades.

    Jackson's cultural resurgence will certainly continue to brighten the estate's financial situation, but more challenges are on the horizon. Next year, insiders say, the estate's groaning debts will need to be refinanced yet again.
    Down the road, MiJac may be merged into Sony/ATV, which has thrived over the past couple of years. Or the estate may eventually decide that it wants to sell Jackson's musical jewels to the highest bidder to finally settle all the singer's debts and lawsuits.

    One day, in Las Vegas or elsewhere, fans may visit a new Neverland.

    Creatively, Jackson's legacy in the pantheon of musical superstars is already secure. But when it comes to the big financial questions, it's a good bet that Jackson's executors will not be asking themselves, "What would Michael do?"
    Reporter associates Marilyn Adamo and Kim Thai First Published:October 23, 2009: 4:26 AM ET

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