Entertainment behind the scenes
AEG Live tap dances through Michael Jackson woes
After Michael Jackson died on Thursday, concert promoter AEG Live found itself on shaky ground, with 50 shows in London scrapped and ticket buyers clamoring for refunds. The company in recent days has been forced to consider how much it could lose on the canceled shows, amid reports that it spent up to $30 million in production costs and as questions emerged about Dr. Conrad Murray. He is the physician AEG Live hired to care for Jackson and the one who was there when the singer died. He performed CPR on a bed, instead of the preferred method of placing him on a hard surface, like a floor.
Would AEG be the target of lawsuits? Will its insurors decline to pay out if they make a claim? Time will tell, but one outside observer is giving AEG, which is owned by companies controlled by Colorado-based billionaire Philip Anschutz, credit for the way it has controlled the damage that could’ve been caused — or may still be caused — by Jackson’s death.
“AEG is at the center of this right now and it seems the people at AEG are very, very switched on,” said Jerry Kroll, an attorney who specializes in insurance cases. “They seem to be dealing with it as if they had a crisis management team come in.”
Randy Phillips, chief executive of AEG Live, has said that Jackson looked fit and ready to perform the night before he died, and that the company planned a tribute show that could involve the singer’s famous family. Phillips also said he tried in vain to convince Jackson not to hire Murray.
This comes after the company released photos of Jackson’s last rehearsal in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, the night before he died. The photos show Jackson looking in good shape, unlike the skeletal man in frail health that media reports often describe. The images undercut speculation that Jackson was in no shape to handle 50 concerts.
AEG Live even offered concert goers the chance to hold onto their ticket instead of receiving a refund, on the grounds that the piece of paper will be worth money as a collectible.
“Whoever dreamed up the idea that if you want to keep the ticket, we don’t refund it but you get the ticket as a souvenir was a genius,” Kroll said.
AEG Live had insurance to cover itself in the event Jackson did not take the stage in London. The insurance on a concert would normally cover the concert promoter’s production costs, but in this case payment will likely hinge on the results of the two autopsies done on Jackson, because the insurance companies might not pay if Jackson died of a drug overdose, Kroll said. Jackson had a history of prescription drug abuse, and police investigators have searched for medicines at his home to determine what role those might have had in his death.
The company also reportedly has enough material from video footage of Jackson rehearsing to release a DVD and an album. Kroll, who was not involved in plans for the London shows but had a legal role in the unravelling of the singer’s 1990s “Dangerous” tour, said that AEG could realize hefty revenues on sales of material from the rehearsal.
“You put that out, that alone would be an amazing event,” he said. “It’s like saying, ‘OK we have Elvis’ last rehearsal.’”