A Los Angeles judge approved a Michael Jackson memorabilia tour just as an unofficial Los Angeles coroner’s report leaked to the Associated Press in late August called Michael Jackson’s June 25 death a homicide.
The same day, documents from a Houston search warrant were released, saying the late superstar died with a fatal concentration of anesthetic Propofol, along with at least two other powerful sedatives, in his blood.
While media and various punditry analyzed the meaning of it all, not to mention await what they believe is the imminent arrest of Jackson physician Dr. Conrad Murray, MJ estate administrators continued to work through court approvals, and around MJ’s mother Katherine, for post-mortem business deals.
One such deal is allowing a tour of Jackson memorabilia, which is expected to raise $6 million for the estate and launch at London’s O2, where Jackson’s “This Is It” tour would have begun July 13.
While Katherine Jackson argued the tour would harm her son’s legacy and was not competitively bid, Judge Mitchell Beckloff disagreed, saying there was “no question in my mind this agreement is in the best interest of the estate.”
He also noted that no one had proffered a realistic alternative proposal, though Katherine alluded to a Middle East startup that could handle the exhibition.
“The most foolhardy thing the administrators could do is connect with some startup company from the Middle East,” Beckloff said.
AEG Live plans to open the exhibition around Oct. 28, timed to coincide with the release of the film culled from “This Is It” rehearsal footage, expected to hit theatres for two weeks only. Lawyers for Mrs. Jackson tried to block the deal, objecting to the 50-50 split of proceeds negotiated by the estate with AEG and arguing the deal was being unnecessarily rushed.
Judge Beckloff chided lawyer John Schreiber, saying his “hyperbole about rushing to judgment and fire sales and giving away the store” was inappropriate.
Meg Lodise, a lawyer appointed to represent the interests of Michael Jackson’s three children, agreed that the deal was in their best interest even if their grandmother didn’t.
John Norman, president and CEO of AEG Live-owned exhibitor Arts and Exhibitions International, which was awarded the tour, said the memorabilia exhibition calls for a three-city tour spread over two years. The items to be shown have yet to be chosen but Norman cited warehouses of material including pieces from Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara and the “This Is It” shows.
“I think everybody is going to be thrilled with the results,” Norman said. “It will be great to celebrate this man’s legacy.”
In another development, AEG attorney Kathy Jorrie said in closing arguments that AEG had gone from being a potential creditor to the estate, with millions of dollars in claims, to becoming a partner in its success. She said that some of the costs of the public memorial for Michael Jackson at L.A.’s Staples Center were factored into the agreement, but that the exact amounts were confidential.
The contract approved Aug. 21 requires AEG Live to collaborate with the administrators of the Jackson estate, but that Katherine Jackson may not have a formal say in how that will be done.
Her attorneys have also filed a motion seeking Beckloff’s permission to contest the ability of co-executors John Branca and John McClain to administer the estate. That motion will be heard in September.