Whitney, Robbie To Replace MJ?

Newspaper reports claim Whitney Houston and Robbie Williams will fill at least part of the 50-date hole left in the London’s O2 arena’s diary by the death of Michael Jackson.

The stories were in The Star and The Independent, both quoting unnamed sources, although Ian Huffam from X-Ray Touring – Williams’ agent for the world excluding the U.S. since ’96 – says there’s no truth in it as far as his act is concerned and it’s nothing more than newspaper speculation.

The Independent claimed the fact Jackson died so close to the O2 run meant AEG’s people have “scrambled to find replacement shows at such short notice.”

The paper quoted an AEG spokesman saying the venue is talking to “as many world-class artists and their teams as we conceivably can.”

“We want every great act to play the O2 and we’re very fortunate that artists want to play our building,” he said.

The Independent story also said AEG is doing its best to “claw back as much cash as possible.”

It said although it has lost millions from the empty nights at The O2, it will almost certainly recoup large amounts, thanks to its ownership of high-definition video footage of the dress rehearsals.

The Star’s version of the story claimed Williams’ shows would be next year and would be “a sensational tribute to Michael Jackson.”

The daily tabloid quoted an unnamed source saying Robbie is “a huge Jacko fan and feels the chance to fill his great shoes would be an honour.”

It also had “a music industry spy” claiming Whitney couldn’t turn down the opportunity “to carry Michael’s legacy with her to the stage where he would have trod.”

The Star, which said spokesmen for both acts were declining to comment, reckons losing the Jackson shows has set AEG back by up to £200 million ($329 million).