As some of the financial pieces begin to fall in place in the weeks after the June 25 death of Michael Jackson, associated investigations are heating up as well.
While there’s still no confirmation of potential AEG Live-promoted tribute concerts at London’s O2 arena, it’s been widely reported that at least one and possibly two such concerts are being considered in either late August, to coincide with what would have been Jackson’s 51st birthday, or early September.
And in the meantime, a bidding war was reportedly raging at press time for worldwide distribution rights to a film based on “This Is It” tour rehearsal footage.
Sources have said that Sony ponied up $60 million to land the footage, but others report that figure may only represent the opening salvo. Other studios reportedly shown footage and apparently interested in the rights included Paramount, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.
Sony will reportedly produce the film with AEG Live and Jackson’s estate.
While a hefty bid would be good news for AEG Live in its efforts to recoup losses from the 50-date London residency that died with Jackson, it only seemed to inflame already-simmering anger – or at least ramp up the political theatre – among Los Angeles talk radio hosts, citizens and elected officials.
L.A. politicos are lining up behind or against Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilwoman Jan Perry in the aftermath of the city’s decision to foot some $1.4 million in police and other security expenses associated with Jackson’s July 7 memorial at the Staples Center. And the city attorney has stated that a probe into how the payment was authorized could have “criminal aspects.”
As Los Angeles, like just about every other city in the country, is strapped for cash in the middle of a recession, the expenditure has sparked a political firestorm. And much of the ire is aimed at AEG Live, which some have called upon to reimburse the city for costs associated with the memorial.
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has been reviewing procedures and city policies regarding the approval of such expenditures and the deployment of thousands of police and city workers to the Staples Center / L.A. Live vicinity in anticipation of hundreds of thousands of potential gatecrashers that never materialized.
“Our investigation has taken an unanticipated turn that raises both civil and criminal aspects,” Trutanich told the L.A. City Council, just as members were preparing competing motions over the issue.
Trutanich said his office has exchanged correspondence with AEG in the matter. “That letter is an investigative-type letter,” said Trutanich spokesman John Franklin. “He’s asking questions and wanting them to produce certain things.”
It’s not clear what “criminal aspects” Trutanich’s office is pursuing, nor is it clear that they involve AEG or, more likely, are directed at public officials.
“His main goal here is to recoup the taxpayers’ money,” Franklin said. “When you are dealing with the civil aspect, that’s basically it.”
The backlash over the public cost of the Jackson memorial includes charges, not confirmed by Trutanich, that taxpayers were forced to foot the bill for a reported $48,000 in sandwiches shipped in from 70 miles away to feed some 3,200 police officers.
Beyond ticketholders, about 1,000 fans showed up downtown during the memorial.
The city attorney’s office prosecutes misdemeanors but would pass on any evidence of more serious possible crimes to the district attorney.
Meanwhile, the investigation into Jackson’s death sent officers from Los Angeles, Houston and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to the Houston clinic run by Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician who was present when Jackson went into cardiac arrest at a rented Holmby Hills mansion and subsequently died June 25.
Investigators seized documents and a “forensic image” of a computer hard drive, which would enable police to examine e-mail and other correspondence with Jackson or orders for prescription drugs. Toxicology results have not been released at press time, but Jackson reportedly had doses in his home of a powerful sedative intended for use only in a medical setting.
Murray, who AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips has said Jackson demanded be put on the company’s payroll, claims he’s owed $300,000 by AEG Live for services rendered over two months prior to Jackson’s death. Phillips has been quoted saying the personal services contract was never signed.