Rumours of more than one will left by Jackson add to the confusion
Sunday 28 June 2009
Despite decades of success at the top of the music charts, Michael Jackson leaves a complicated and troubled financial legacy that already has lawyers arming themselves for a potentially bitter courtroom battle.
Jackson, estimated to have earned more than £400m since the 1980s, saw his fortune ravaged by his own profligate spending and dozens of lawsuits.
His estate rests on the value of his own successful music, estimated to be worth £30m to £60m, but also on his ownership of the bulk of The Beatles' music, including top-selling songs such as "Yesterday" and "Let it Be". Jackson bought the songs for £28.7m in 1985 in a deal widely seen as one of the greatest coups of music business history. Despite the sale of 50 per cent of the rights to Sony in 1995 for £60m, experts put the current value of the catalogue at £604m.
But what remains a mystery is the true extent of his wealth. Jackson had been fighting off debtors for many years and the Beatles deal with Sony was forced on him by the need to pay off other obligations.
The controversial 2005 trial for child abuse showed the singer to be deeply in the red. The court heard that Jackson was spending £18m a year more than he brought in, and that the upkeep of his Neverland ranch cost him £3m a year. In March 2008, he nearly lost the 2,600-acre property after defaulting on a £14.8m obligation, but was saved at the llth hour by an investment group willing to extend him more credit. Several auctions of the star's personal memorabilia were announced, but always cancelled by Jackson.
At his death, some experts put his total debt at $400m (£240m), which could increase as a result of the outcome of a series of lawsuits Jackson was embroiled in. Several remain outstanding to date and may have to be dealt with by tho se entrusted with handling his estate.
Raymone Bain, Jackson's spokesperson during the criminal trial, is now suing him for £33m. Ms Bain, Jackson's manager from 2003 to 2006, says she is entitled to 10 per cent royalties on business deals done during that time period. In January this year, John Landis, director of "Thriller", sued Jackson, alleging he is owed £700,000 in unpaid proceeds from the video. Ola Ray, who played Jackson's love interest in the video, also brought a suit for unpaid royalties. And this month, promoters AllGood Entertainment alleged he breached his contract and sought £24m compensation.
And just to complicate matters further, Jackson's former financial advisers suggest he may have left at least two wills.
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