Sheikh 'felt personally betrayed' by Jackson

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The Independent Culture

An Arab sheikh who spent a fortune on a project he thought would revive Michael Jackson's career felt "a strong sense of personal betrayal" when the pop superstar walked out on the deal, a court heard today.

Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, second son of the King of Bahrain, is now suing Jackson for £4.7 million in the High Court in London to get back what he says he spent on the star.

Bankim Thanki QC, representing the sheikh, told Mr Justice Sweeney that his client had formed a "close personal relationship" with Jackson after he invited him, his children and personal staff to stay in Bahrain in June 2005.

Mr Thanki said Jackson had signed a contract for recording albums, writing an autobiography and staging shows in which it had been agreed that 7,000,000 US dollar (£4.7 million) would be deducted from Jackson's agreed royalties to pay for the expenses.

These included, he said, a £175,000 bill for motivational guru Tony Buzan who was flown into Bahrain to work with Jackson.

The star left Bahrain in May 2006 to go to Europe and Japan.

"The last thing Sheikh Abdulla expected was that he was never coming back," Mr Thanki said.

The following month, the sheikh was asked to sign a document releasing Jackson from his obligations under the contract but refused, the lawyer added.

"My client felt a strong sense of of personal betrayal because this was someone he considered a close personal friend. The work they had done together and the plans for the future all seemed to be totally frustrated," he said.

It emerged in court on the first day of the hearing yesterday that the sheikh had sent Jackson songs he had written and had tried to record one as a charity single for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It was never released.

Jackson insists there was no valid agreement and that the sheikh's case is based on "mistake, misrepresentation and undue influence".

In his pleaded defence, Jackson says the payments he received were "gifts" and that no project was ever finalised.

At the start of a court hearing in London set to last for up to 12 days, Mr Justice Sweeney heard that an application would be made for Jackson to give evidence via video link from Los Angeles.

Sheikh Abdulla is the Governor of the Southern Governate of Bahrain and head of the country's Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife.

He is also the founder of the 2 Seas Group, an entertainment and record production label.

The sheikh is seeking repayment of the £4.7 million and/or damages for breach of contract, plus interest.