Funeral date set as more details emerge
July 1, 2009, 10:06 PM ET
Sources said AEG Live, which owns the arena and the adjacent Nokia Theatre, will use both facilities and the surrounding plaza.
Meanwhile, things keep getting curiouser and curiouser in and around the Jackson "case." Even before a proper burial the death is morphing from a personal tragedy into a series of titillating tell-alls or testy tussles.
And the inevitable psychics, shysters and various supporting players are coming out of the woodwork to stake their claim to a piece of the Jackson legacy, to tattle about -- or explain away -- the pop icon's loopy lifestyle or just to bask in his reflected glory.
Latest reveal: Registered nurse-nutritionist SheriLyn Lee told CNN that an insomniac, energy-depleted Jackson begged her to administer the sedative Diprivan to help him sleep. The Jackson family immediately dismissed her as an ill-informed interloper.
Nonetheless, some things are becoming clearer -- and one of them was the astuteness of the deal for that Beatles catalog, even if it apparently meant a rift with Paul McCartney and even if the King of Pop eventually had to sell half his stake to Sony to keep afloat. The 750,000-song catalog includes not only music by the Beatles but also many works of Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga, Eminem and Jonas Brothers. That property essentially anchors the pop star's assets.
And getting at precisely what all those assets are, what they're worth and who has any legitimate claim to them will keep a phalanx of legal eagles engaged for years.
Per a detailed rundown of the singer's tangled finances upturned by the Associated Press on Wednesday, the lavish-spending but debt-ridden Jackson was worth $237 million as of March 31, 2007.
Like so much else that boggles the mind about Jackson's life, though, he had $700,000 of that amount in actual cash, a relatively paltry sum given his opulent lifestyle, prodigious borrowing and seven-figure shopping sprees.
The dollar amounts then and now are crucial because Jackson's estate soon will be the focus of legal battles between the singer's family and various creditors.
Not to mention Uncle Sam, who, once debts are stripped out of the Jackson assets, will want to exact his pound of flesh -- as much as 45% of what's left of the estate once the legislated $3.5 million exemption is accounted for.
"I'm really surprised more hasn't been made of the possible federal estate tax liabilities that could be involved in all this," said Lawrence Heller, a tax and estate planner of the law firm Bryan Cave. He also added that the executors of the will have nine months to untangle the situation before interest and penalties apply.
Since 2007, Jackson's debts and his assets have grown substantially. He took on more debt in a refinancing transaction later that year, and the Sony/ATV Music Publishing joint venture spent hundreds of millions acquiring new songs.
The five-page statement of financial condition from D.C.-based accounting firm Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates says Jackson had debts of $331 million.
On the plus side of the ledger, the 2007 report put a net value on Jackson's 50% stake in the Sony/ATV catalog at $390 million.
His overall assets at the time, mostly nonliquid items including the catalog share, were pegged at about $500 million.
According to other unrelated documents, Sony Music guaranteed Jackson a cash distribution of $11 million a year from the venture through September 2011 and indicated that Sony had an option to buy an unspecified percentage of Jackson's remaining share in Sony/ATV.
The present worth of the catalog probably has gone up, though Sony's sluggish stock performance suggests the conglom might not be anxious to spend anything considerable for a buyout. The value of Neverland, the other main asset in which Jackson still had an indirect ownership interest, probably has gone down in the wake of the housing slump in California.
In another part of the forest of financial entanglements, there are a few patches of sunlight and a lot of shade.
Unlike what Jackson's family apparently was aware of, the singer did sign a will -- big scrawls on each of five typed pages, in fact -- and it leaves the pop star's estate to his three children. That revelation complicates a bid by Jackson's mother, Katherine, to take control of her son's finances. The will does name his mother as guardian of his children but puts his assets in a trust.
However, elements of the wacky pop up in every aspect of this unfolding saga: Jackson designated none other than the 65-year-old entertainer Diana Ross, his lifelong friend, as backup guardian for the kids were anything to prevent his mother, now 79, from fulfilling her duties. Debbie Rowe, the mother of Jackson's two older children who relinquished her parental rights 10 years ago, is not even referred to in the will.
The divvying up of Jackson's assets and the settling of his debts are likely to be hotly contested.
On Monday, just four days after their son died of cardiac arrest, Katherine and Joe Jackson won temporary custody of the kids and moved to become administrators of his estate. And on Wednesday, the judge further ruled that Katherine Jackson will retain limited control of 2,000 items from Neverland until another hearing is held Monday.
But after the will surfaced, Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff called for a speedy compromise between attorneys for Katherine Jackson and the two co-executors of Michael Jackson's will: attorney John Branca and John McClain, a music executive and family friend.
"I would like the family to sit down and try to make this work so that we don't have a difficult time in court," the judge said.
Good luck with that.
Roger Friedman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
LOS ANGELES — Nearly a week after he died, Michael Jackson still has not been buried, new complications have arisen over settling his vast estate, and his will has given up tantalizing details, including his choice of Diana Ross as a guardian of his children if his mother were unable to care for them.
In short, Mr. Jackson’s death has carried on much as his life, full of rumors, legal maneuvering and a shifting cast of characters acting on his behalf.
One thing was made clear by the family’s latest publicists: despite gathering fans and a swirl of news reports, there would be no memorial for Mr. Jackson at Neverland, the ranch he once owned in Santa Barbara County, near Los Angeles.
The family, however, was planning a public memorial for Mr. Jackson, 50, who died Thursday of undetermined causes. No details were released.
Officials in Santa Barbara County confirmed that representatives of Colony Capital LLC, the company that acquired the ranch last year as Mr. Jackson’s finances spiraled out of control, had approached them Tuesday about a burial there.
That prospect sent a surge of fans and news people to the two-lane country road leading there, and law enforcement officials braced for a memorial. But after examining regulations on burials on private land, the representatives were told the necessary approvals would take “months, not weeks,” said Michael Ghizzoni, the county’s lawyer.
Mr. Ghizzoni said the discussions left open the possibility of a later burial there, but the family’s wishes were unclear, and their representatives would say only that planning continued.
As they sought a place for Mr. Jackson’s funeral and burial, the family and its representatives also sought to clarify issues regarding his assets and the custody of his children, Michael Joseph Jr., 12, known as Prince Michael; Paris Michael Katherine, 11; and Prince Michael II, 7.
A five-page will written in 2002 and filed in state court Wednesday by two executors who were once business partners of Mr. Jackson gives the entire estate to a family trust, and names his mother, Katherine Jackson, 79, as a beneficiary of the trust and as legal guardian of the children.
The will does not mention Joe Jackson, Mr. Jackson’s father, whom the singer in interviews had accused of physically and emotionally abusing him and his brothers in their years performing as the Jackson 5. Joe Jackson has denied those claims and has talked in recent days of his desire to find out how his son died and of his plans for a record company.
Amid the dry legalese came a surprising revelation. The will named Ms. Ross, who helped start Mr. Jackson’s career in the 1970s, as a backup to raise the children if Mrs. Jackson were unable to serve as guardian.
A spokesman for Ms. Ross, who is 65 and has five grown children, said she had no comment.
At a hearing Wednesday, Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff of Los Angeles County Superior Court, who had granted temporary custody to Mrs. Jackson earlier in the week, scheduled future hearings to help sort out “this ball that is all of Mr. Jackson’s business dealings.”
Debbie Rowe, the mother of Mr. Jackson’s two oldest children, has not made a claim for custody, nor has the mother of the youngest child. That woman’s name has not been revealed. In a further sign of the legal flurry and Mr. Jackson’s capacity to attract the bizarre, a London woman filed a rambling, handwritten petition that claimed she had married Mr. Jackson in 1970 — when he was 11 — and demanded his assets, among other things.
It was not clear if the will filed Wednesday was the only one. With Mr. Jackson employing a revolving door of advisers over the years, Mrs. Jackson’s lawyer, Burt Levitch, did not rule out the possibility of multiple wills.
But if the 2002 will is deemed valid and a trust receives all of Mr. Jackson’s assets, many of the details of his finances could remain secret. The trust documents are private.
“The trust is going to be more opaque to people like you or me,” said Edward McCaffery, a law professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “The trust mechanism is a way to keep random people out of the woodwork from coming in.”
The value of the estate, mostly in holdings other than cash, was estimated in excess of $50 million, but Mr. Jackson carried unspecified debt as his career foundered in recent years, in part over accusations of child molesting. Although acquitted of criminal charges in 2005, he struggled to revive his career and had planned a series of concerts beginning this summer.
In court papers filed Monday, Mrs. Jackson, who lives in the Encino neighborhood, requested that she be given control of Mr. Jackson’s financial accounts, his real estate holdings and his stake in the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalog, which includes works of the Beatles. The papers listed Joe Jackson’s address as unknown. News reports in the past few years have said he lives in Las Vegas.
In the will, which Mr. Jackson initialed 10 times on the right margin, he named John Branca, a lawyer, and John McClain, a longtime friend, as the executors. They were the petitioners in Wednesday’s filing. A third person, Barry Siegel, was listed as a co-executor, but the filing said Mr. Siegel had resigned from the position in 2003.
Mr. Jackson gave the executors full power over his financial matters, including the buying and selling of assets, the continuation of his “business enterprises,” and the selling, leasing or mortgaging of his property.
Before he died, Mr. Jackson had sought to raise money from his belongings. He moved luxury cars, artwork, jewelry, costumes and other property off Neverland last year for an auction, but it never took place.
The authorities, meanwhile, are awaiting test results before ruling on Mr. Jackson’s cause of death. The family also had a private autopsy done, but results have not been released.
The county coroner has said Mr. Jackson was taking prescription medicine, but officials have not identified it or said whether it was a factor in his death.
Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from Los Angeles, and Liz Robbins from New York.