Michael Jackson's sponsorship deal with Pepsi goes flat

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PEPSICO pulled the plug on its nine-year, record-setting sponsorship of Michael Jackson last night while the press and his fans tried to find the superstar who cancelled the rest of his world tour at the weekend.

The soft drinks company, worried about bad publicity over allegations of sexual misconduct against Jackson, had said that its collaboration - worth dollars 7m-dollars 10m for this latest tour - would end when the tour did.

When the 'Dangerous' album tour deal was announced it was said to be the biggest sponsorship yet of an entertainer by a company. Jackson started in Europe in June 1992 and then travelled to Asia, Australia and Latin America. The cancellation meant it never reached the United States.

Where Jackson is now is anybody's guess. 'You can't hide]' one national newspaper headline warned yesterday. Rather annoyingly for the 15 or so reporters and three fans camped outside a psychiatric clinic in south- west London, that is precisely what the superstar seems to be doing.

The singer, who numbers a chimpanzee called Bubbles and Elizabeth Taylor among close friends, said he could not cope with performing while fighting an addiction to painkillers on top of allegations that he sexually abused a boy of 13 in California.

The nearest to a definitive version of his whereabouts involves his being flown early on Saturday from a remote airfield in Mexico to - improbably - Luton. From there the aircraft, which also had Ms Taylor on board, went to Switzerland. When it landed in Geneva, there was no sign of Jackson. A Home Office spokesman said two people alighted in Luton, but would not name them.

By yesterday morning the trail had reached the Charter Clinic in Chelsea, largely on the grounds that it is expensive and some of his showbiz friends speak highly of it. Was he there? All Jane Pitcaithly, the clinic's duty manager, would say was: 'I cannot confirm or deny that Michael Jackson is here. It is not official policy for us to comment on patients who visit our clinic.'

The Charter Clinic boasts 'discreet confidential treatment for individuals suffering from stress, psychological and emotional, and addictions'. At a price - a room costs up to pounds 300 a night, with detoxification an extra pounds 75 a day.