MJ To Be Buried Amid Squabbles

Michael Jackson’s mother Katherine continues wrangling with attorneys and pretty much everyone else involved in the administration of the late artist’s estate, delaying a merchandising deal and threatening lawsuits against MJ’s doctor as well as AEG Live.

An attorney for Katherine Jackson said she is considering a wrongful death suit because of the circumstances surrounding her son’s June 25 death.

“It’s fairly obvious from press accounts that AEG had a very active role in Michael’s life for the last six months,” attorney Burt Levitch said Aug. 17. “They paid for his home and for Dr. Conrad Murray.”

AEG spokesman Michael Roth said it would be “inappropriate” to speculate on potential litigation.

Numerous reports indicate Murray was never paid by AEG, and others reported that Murray was considering suing AEG for non-payment of a contract AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips contends was never signed.

Murray was still under a cloud of suspicion at press time, as L.A. District Attorney officials were forced to publicly deny a Fox News report that Murray would be charged with manslaughter within two weeks for his alleged role in Michael Jackson’s death.

In the meantime, a family spokesman announced that MJ would finally be laid to rest in a private interment service at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, Calif., Aug. 29, on what would have been the late King of Pop’s 51st birthday.

The day before that happens, the judge conducting hearings on questions surrounding Michael Jackson’s estate has scheduled an evidentiary session over AEG’s role in a tour of MJ memorabilia, even though an agreement was finally reached over merchandising agreements with AEG and Bravado that allow estate-licensed merch to hit shelves.

The merch agreement was delayed by Katherine Jackson’s continued objections to pretty much all things AEG. The estate continues to be administered by John Branca and John McClain, with Katherine Jackson to be informed and have input on major business decisions.

Those objections were withdrawn, but lawyers raised new objections to AEG’s involvement in the proposed memorabilia tour, which is still awaiting approval.

Kathy Jorrie, an attorney for AEG, said the exhibition faces a tight deadline and its interest might wane if the tour isn’t approved soon. She said the company was not interested in renegotiating the deal.

AEG wants the memorabilia tour to open at the same time as a movie using footage of Jackson’s final rehearsals for a series of London concerts. The deal is expected to generate about $7 million for the estate, said Howard Weitzman, an attorney for Branca and McClain.

One of the concessions Katherine Jackson is apparently seeking is the authority to sign off on the deal. Judge Mitchell Beckloff said he was inclined to reject that argument.

“She doesn’t own the property,” Beckloff said. “There’s no reason to make her a signatory to those agreements.”

Levitch said there was more than money at stake: He said the singer’s legacy is on the line and that there is concern Jackson’s estate isn’t receiving the best deal from AEG.

Beckloff said he was in a difficult position and was concerned that delays in approving the deal — which was first proposed nearly two weeks earlier – are hurting the estate.