Avram And Jacko Back In Court?

Even if Michael Jackson walks free from his current court battle over child molestation charges, his next appearance is more likely to be back in court than in front of a paying audience.

German promoter Marcel Avram, who successfully sued Jackson three years ago for failing to perform at two millennium concerts, has told Pollstar he’s bringing another lawsuit against the former megastar.

Avram – who was awarded $5.5 million plus costs by a Santa Maria, Calif., jury in March 2003 – wouldn’t say if the new suit is related to that case, but did say the matter would become public “in about two weeks.”

After the Santa Maria jury took a week to decide the legal battle over the millennium shows – which were slotted for Sydney, Australia, and Honolulu December 31, 1999 – Avram’s attorney, Louis “Skip” Miller, said he would appeal the $6 million in damages that Judge Zel Canter barred the jury from considering. That amount represented the loss of TV revenues the concerts would have created and debts Avram said he paid for the singer.

At the time, Jackson was believed to have made a full settlement of the $5.5 million plus costs that Canter awarded (a total estimated at $7 million), and Avram refused to comment on whether there’s money still outstanding.

He also refused to discuss a May 28, 1998 “memo of understanding” that has become the subject of U.S. media speculation, beyond saying, “That piece of paper does exist.”

The paper appears to authorize “Mr. Marcel Avram to coordinate (with MJ representative) all negotiations, including financial, contractual, written and verbal agreements for and in regards to the production (Producer), promotion (Promoter) and presentation of the next Michael Jackson World Tour.”

The document looks to have been typed on headed notepaper, although the bit that says “with MJ representative” is handwritten and added in above the text. The phrase “in connection with MJ legal representative” is also handwritten at the end of the sentence.

“Mr. Avram will have the rights to approve promoter agreements, vendor contracts and all other matters related to the tour. This memorandum of understanding is irrevocable,” the document continues. It is signed by Michael Jackson, assuming the signature is authentic.

The memo was never mentioned by either party during the course of the previous millennium concerts trial.

The news of the new lawsuit and the emergence of the signed paper come at a time when newspapers worldwide are questioning the state of Jackson’s finances. Even without his legal bills, his tremendous monthly overhead greatly outstrips his current income. A lack of liquidity has observers predicting that he might be forced to sell all or part of his share in the Sony / ATV music catalog.

There has been much speculation that if he is acquitted, Jackson would attempt to generate some quick cash by mounting a tour. He hasn’t toured the U.S. since 1988, but a highly successful overseas stadium tour in 1997 grossed more than $90 million.

John Gammon