Michael Jackson’s troubled financial legacy

June 26, 2009

Alexander Smith— Alexander Smith is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own —

Michael Jackson’s will is bound to be as bizarre as the rest of the singer’s turbulent life. But one thing is for sure, the arguments over his deeply flawed financial legacy will keep lawyers busy for years.

Top of the list will be sorting out Jackson’s sell-out comeback tour, which was due to kick off next month. There are bound to be losses, insurance claims and the prospect of an empty London O2 Arena for 50 nights during the peak summer period.

Music industry bible Billboard reckons promoter AEG Live could lose as much as $40 million if its insurance is insufficient to cover what has already been spent on the production. That’s assuming they have to give refunds to the 750,000 fans who have paid big money for tickets. And that doesn’t count the cost of hotel reservations and flights from across the world.

Then there’s the small issue of the $500 million in debts that Jackson is reported to have left behind.

Bizarrely, Sir Paul McCartney, the super-rich former Beatle, could be one of the beneficiaries of Jackson’s will. Reports earlier this year said Jackson had left McCartney his stake in the Beatles’ song catalogue. But given that this share already has a $200 million loan secured against it, there could be a few court hearings before the former Beatle gets the songs back in his own collection.

Some estimate that Jackson’s top assets, including copyrights to his own songs and the Beatles song catalogue stake, are worth more than $1 billion.

No doubt Jackson’s family, his creditors, and partners such as Los Angeles-based real estate investment trust Colony Capital LLC and music catalogue joint venture partner Sony Corp, will all be laying claim to some of these assets.

The self-styled King of Pop’s music will live on in his recordings, but its a fair bet that the legacy of his high-spending lifestyle will be around for a good few years too.

— At the time of publication Alexander Smith did not own any direct investments in securities mentioned in this article. He may be an owner indirectly as an investor in a fund.–


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If he died at the top of his career during the 80es, it would have been tragic. But then followed the bizarre and scandalous. Pedophilia allegations, money-related scandals, numerous plastic surgeries, many more things unusual, abnormal, and not exactly image-enhancing – who told there’s no such a thing as bad publicity? And drug OD in the end. Now, instead of great, he goes down the memory lane as queer (to put it lightly). But anyway, R.I.P. – if the media circus will ever afford Peace to him, or his memories.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Doesn’t it seem a little soon — and frankly, boring — to focus Jackson’s “financial legacy” at this point? Zzzzzzz.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

Jackson created value. You’re a second-hander.

Posted by Al | Report as abusive

As nice a gesture that may be to McCartney, he will likely never fully regain control of the Lennon/McCartney catalogue.

Posted by lotb | Report as abusive

So many years he entertained the public and wanted his privacy too! The memories are great and I’m glad to be a part of that era. Now he’s at peace with himself and resting nearby Angels. Let everyman die peaceful with grace and dignity no matter what the cause. Fond memories of his music will remain just like the Beatles. We should pray for Michael and his family’s well-being.

Posted by Michelle Ribbit | Report as abusive

Michael Jackson’s assets will still be earning a revenue long after he’s gone, so I see no reason that his current responsibilities won’t be worked out in some way, shape or form. Plus his kids will be well taken care of financially and otherwise. Like many of you, I have a hard time separating the good Michael from the bad, but the music always seems to win out over everything. He is as American as apple pie and will always be a terrific part of our history.

Posted by chickc | Report as abusive

I am sure in the end ;no matter how much money he may have owed all his debts can be easily repaid AND a sizeable amount left over as well for the financial security of his children.Getting to that point however involves a lot of paperwork and time.I hope the people who are looking after his estate do a good job and make sure that his children get the best deal and let them(the will executers) not be purely motivated by personal greed and comissions as is the matter at hand in most such cases.In short do not cheat Michael and give him what is rightfully his.

Posted by dejavous | Report as abusive

Who does have a healthy financial legacy now. Or have we forgotten, we are living through another economic depression.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

When Jimi Hendrix passed he left an estate in similar financial turmoil. I am not presently aware but as of about thirty years after his death his estate was worth reportedly in excess of a hundred million dollars.I guess it is all meaningless. Artists are to be judged for their talent and not their financial bottom line. Or are we as a society unable to see anything at all through some other filter than economic? After all Tchaikovsky died a pauper.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

(Purposefully changing the subject): I rather listen to Tchaikovsky. He was judged on his talent while living and if he hadn’t been a troubled soul, he would have been financially successful.Question: Why can’t they make tv programmes about the life of classical composers? Each seems like a good soap opera. Far more interesting than MJ. You have everything juicy: hidden and troubled homossexuals, torrid love affairs, cortesans, royalty, a great music score, duels, fierce competition, wars, politics, exile and great wardrobe.

Posted by Dan likes Swan Lake | Report as abusive

Perhaps Michael Jackson had a sense that his whole life he was a work horse and a money cow. Cow’s attract fies and other pests.The cow just died and the flies have to turn into maggots real fast before the feast is dust. They will be certain to feed on each other as they nibble at his remains.Will the “good” Michale or the “Bad” Michael determine the future of the flies? Which side of his nature would want the maggots fed?

Posted by P Rosa | Report as abusive

P Diddy had very precisely described the genius of Michael Jackson: “He showed that you can actually see the beat. He made the music come to life. He made me believe in magic.”Check other notable tributes paid to Michael Jackson by peers:http://www.tributespaid.com/catego ry/m/michael-jackson

Posted by Dawood | Report as abusive