Together they plan to make History

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The Independent Online
The billionaire pop star Michael Jackson and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz, a fabulously wealthy Saudi investor, yesterday unveiled an unlikely joint venture dedicated to "family values" and "wholesome entertainment."

The King of Pop and the Billionaire Prince launched their new company, Kingdom Entertainment, at a packed press conference in Paris yesterday.

The pair promised a string of announcements in coming weeks, including details of Jackson's next tour, in succession to his troubled "History" world tour last year.

No financial details have been released, but they plan to develop motion pictures, videos, animation, theme parks and even a division dedicated to licensing toys, calling the company "one of the most significant business breakthroughs of the 21st century." The new company is similar to DreamWorks, the multimedia enterprise set up last year by the film director Steven Spielberg, the former Disney movie chief Jeffrey Katzenberg and the record producer David Geffen.

Mr Jackson, reading from a prepared statement, said: "My earliest aspiration to be actively involved in all facets of the global multi-media explosion was derived from decades of travelling throughout the world. I was made privy to the heartbeats of millions of fans who willingly shared with me their hopes, loves, fears and most importantly, their desire for a better life. It was during this time that I first began to appreciate that the proper approach to global family entertainment could go a long way to addressing these concerns."

Prince Alwaleed, the 39 year-old nephew of the King of Saudi Arabia, is worth an estimated $10bn, and has invested a fortune in real estate, entertainment and hotels since he launched onto the global business stage in 1991, paying $800m for a stake in the troubled US bank Citicorp.

He made his money first in the Middle East, winning a series of lucrative construction contracts. Since then, he has helped bail out Euro Disney, now called Disneyland Paris, and the Canary Wharf development in Docklands, east London. He also beat Rupert Murdoch to a stake in Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset empire and is a leading hotelier, having taken a 27 per cent share of Four Seasons and half of the Plaza Hotel, New York.

The Prince is fanatical about fitness, neither smokes nor drinks, and spends considerable time on the telephone from his Riyadh office, linked by satellite to would-be partners offering multi-million dollar deals. He describes himself as an orthodox Muslim.

He and Mr Jackson, one of the world's best-selling recording artists, met 18 months ago, and found "they had a great deal in common," a spokesman said from Paris last night - not least a penchant for dark sunglasses.

Mr Jackson has been in the spotlight recently over his relationship to children left in his care. He was divorced from his wife, Lisa Marie Presley, earlier this year. Mr Jackson is a businessman in his own right, whose recordings, concerts and publishing interests have generated $5bn.

A spokesman defended Mr Jackson's divorced status, despite the new company's emphasis on family values. "More than half the world is now divorced," he said.

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