Rumours of more than one will left by Jackson add to the confusion

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before