MJ In Talks To Avoid Default

Once again, Michael Jackson’s grip on his share of the Beatles catalog appears to be slipping. The former King of Pop’s December 20th deadline to repay some $200 million in loans collateralized by his 50 percent partnership in Sony/ATV Music Publishing came and went.

At press time, representatives for Jackson were reportedly confident about negotiating a six-month extension to repay Fortress Investment Group, which bought the loans from Bank of America earlier in 2005.

The Sony/ATV catalog includes some 4,000 songs, ranging from Bob Dylan to System Of A Down. Also collateralized is Mijac, Jackson’s own publishing company, as well as MJ’s Neverland Ranch property near Santa Ynez, Calif.

As the deadline passed, the Los Angeles Times reported that in exchange for the extension, Fortress would likely demand interim payments with an interest rate that could reach as high as 9.5 percent, or more than $1.5 million a month. And Jackson still owes another $70 million loan that has not yet come due.

If he defaults, it could still take months to complete a forced sale of a portion of his Sony/ATV share and result in a tax bill of as much as $40 million, according to the paper.

A spokesperson for Sony/ATV declined to discuss specifics but told the Times the company is “trying to be a good partner, and keep the partnership with Jackson going.”

His ex-wife may not be as magnanimous.

Debbie Rowe, the mother of two of MJ’s three children, has reportedly filed papers in a Southern California court accusing him of abducting them and taking them to the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, where he has spent most of his time since being acquitted of child molestation charges in August.