Jackson and 'secret' $5m stash

Administrators of pop star's estate say they expect it to be solvent, despite his multimillion-dollar debts

Anthony McCartney,Linda Deutsch
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:52
Police are working on the theory that a powerful anaesthetic caused the pop star's heart to stop
Police are working on the theory that a powerful anaesthetic caused the pop star's heart to stop

The temporary administrators of Michael Jackson's estate have been handed $5.5m and substantial amounts of personal property by the star's former financial adviser, and predict that the estate will be solvent despite an estimated $400m or more in debts, according to court documents released on Friday.

Dr Tohme Tohme made the disclosure after documents showed administrators of the estate had recovered the money and substantial amounts of personal property from an unnamed former financial adviser. "It was not 'recovered'," he said. "I had the money and I gave it to them. It was a secret between Michael and me."

He said the money, which came from recording residuals, was earmarked by Jackson for the purchase of what was to be his "dream home" in Las Vegas. He said he was in negotiations for the home when Jackson died. "He said, 'Don't tell anyone about this money'," Dr Tohme recalled. "But when he passed away I told them I had this money, and I gave it to them." He said he also turned over a large number of items from Jackson's Neverland estate that were once scheduled to be auctioned. When Jackson decided to call off the auction, Dr Tohme said he had everything put into storage.

Dr Tohme is the financier who advised Jackson during the last year and half of his life and was instrumental in saving Neverland from foreclosure. He was also a key figure in negotiating the contracts for Jackson to do a series of comeback concerts in London. Attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain are serving as temporary administrators of the singer's estate. The men are completing several deals that they expect will generate "tens of millions of dollars of revenues".

The revelations were included in two motions requesting allowances for Jackson's three children and his mother, Katherine. The petitions state that Jackson was the primary source of income for his children and his mother, who receives some money from Social Security. Katherine Jackson currently has custody of the three children, 12-year-old Michael Joseph Jnr, known as Prince Michael; 11-year-old Paris Michael Katherine; and seven-year-old Prince Michael II, known as Blanket. The children and Jackson's mother are the only members of Jackson's family eligible to receive support from the estate, according to court papers.

Jackson paid for the expenses at the Jackson family home in the San Fernando Valley, documents state. The administrators plan to keep that arrangement, even though some expenses may go to other Jackson family members who also live at the home.

Meanwhile, an array of evidence collected by police from the clinic and storage unit of the star's personal physician, Dr Conrad Murray, indicates that authorities are trying to unravel what led to Jackson's death via a trail of drugs. "This is no longer a cause-of-death investigation," said Mark Geragos, a lawyer who once represented Jackson. "This is about building a criminal case."

The items seized from Dr Murray's premises included 27 tablets of the weight-loss drug phentermine, a tablet of the muscle relaxant Clonazepam, business cards, storage receipts, notices from the Internal Revenue Service, and computer hard drives. The 51-year-old doctor was hired as Jackson's personal physician not long before the star died. He was in Jackson's rented Los Angeles mansion when Jackson was found unconscious the morning of 25 June and tried unsuccessfully to revive him.

Dr Murray has kept a low profile since Jackson's death. He was interviewed twice by police but has not spoken publicly. Doors to his Las Vegas office were locked on Friday with red curtains drawn behind them.

The Los Angeles County assistant chief coroner, Ed Winter, said a final determination on Jackson's cause of death is not expected until the end of this week, when toxicology reports should be finished. Jackson had a long history of prescription drug use and was under anaesthesia for many medical procedures over the years. Propofol, a powerful anaesthetic that should be used only by specially trained medical professionals, has emerged as an important part of the investigation. Doses of it were found in Jackson's mansion, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation who is not authorised to speak publicly.

Police are following a trail that involves purchases of drugs by Dr Murray and a possible shipment to Jackson's home. Dr Murray was to accompany Jackson to London for a planned series of 50 concerts at the O2. Greg Scott, a former US attorney, said it would require strong evidence for prosecutors to make the leap from proving negligence to criminal negligence, the basis of a manslaughter charge.

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