A previously unseen tour film made by Michael Jackson at the height of his career is to be auctioned in London later this month. It is expected to spark a multimillion pound bidding war among those eager to hoover up the remaining scraps of archive material relating to the deceased pop star.
The film, seen for the first time by The Independent, was recorded in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1993 on Jackson's mammoth Dangerous world tour and produced using state-of-the-art equipment. But the project was dropped soon after the film was completed, as Jackson was understood to be unhappy with the finished product. He sacked the entire crew and the film was scrapped and never released.
The sole copy ended up not with his estate or his record company, but, curiously, with his personal driver, a Brazilian chauffeur.
The driver, who wishes to remain anonymous, has chauffeured famous names ranging from Margaret Thatcher to Axl Rose and from Madonna to George Bush Snr. But in 1993, he worked for Michael Jackson, at a time when the star was at the height of his powers.
The Pepsi-Cola sponsored world tour was one of the biggest in history and was performed to more than 3.5 million people over 69 performances, but ended in cancellations when Jackson complained of ill-health.
The driver says the singer gave him the VHS tape as "a reward or a bonus" for his "transportation services" after he had helped provide transport when Jackson performed in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a few weeks earlier.
Since then, he says, he kept the fact he had the tape to himself – until Jackson's death in 2009, when he disclosed proof of ownership by leaking a very short clip on to YouTube. He was immediately stopped by Jackson's record label and lawyers from the singer's estate, each of whom claimed exclusive rights, and the clip was removed.
But US law dictates the right of possession of a gift, giving the owner the right to sell or transfer to third parties, but not to distribute copies.
The existence of the tape has become a subject of legend among Jackson fans and speculation has been rife as to its whereabouts. The two-hour film, which also features behind-the-scenes images, contains footage of Jordy Chandler – the boy at the centre of the child-abuse scandal that dogged Jackson.
Appetite for anything Jackson-related has far from diminished since his death and the tape is expected to sell for more than its £4m reserve when it goes under the hammer on 26 November. Ted Owen, CEO of Fame Bureau auctioneers, where the tape will be sold, said: "I'm very excited that this tape is finally going to be seen because of its quality, the amount of cameras used and the sheer closeness you are to the performance when watching it."
The world tour, Jackson's second, ran from June 1992 to November 1993 but ended abruptly when he was taken to hospital. He later became dependent on painkillers, having suffered from dehydration, migraines and injuries.
Jackson died in June 2009 after receiving a fatal overdose of prescription drugs, including the powerful anaesthetic propofol.
Earlier this month his personal doctor, Conrad Murray, who administered the drugs, was convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of the singer.