Jackson family attorney Brian Panish painted AEG as coldly pursuing the goal of usurping Live Nation and becoming “No. 1 in the concert business," regardless of the cost to Jackson.


Lawsuit Could Run Into the Billions, with AEG, Jackson Both on Trial
The massive lawsuit being brought by the family of the late Michael Jackson against AEG as promoters of his ill-fated "This Is It" tour begins today in an L.A. civil court.

Although a specific amount has not been cited, estimates of what it could cost AEG run into the billions.

In the wrongful death lawsuit, the singer's mother and three children accuse the concert promoter of threatening to end Jackson's career if he failed to deliver on a series of comeback concerts in London and hiring the doctor who was later convicted of giving the singer a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol.

Opening arguments by plaintiffs’ attorney Brian Panish called AEG "ruthless" and "desperate"in hiring Dr. Conrad Murray, charging that the jailed physician’s dire economic circumstances were as a lever used to keep Jackson sufficiently medicated to meet his obligations, The New York Daily News and others reported. He painted the company as coldly pursuing the goal of usurping Live Nation and becoming “No. 1 in the concert business," regardless of the cost to Jackson.

Panish, while acknowledging the megastar’s drug dependency, said AEG Live co-CEO Paul Gongaware had known of Jackson’s drug issues because he’d worked on the Dangerous tour in 1992-93. "There were no rules. It didn't matter to them what it took. They were going to get it done," declared Panish, referring to the 2009 This Is It tour.

He underlined that Murray, whose fees were triple that of prior MJ physician Dr. Stuart Finkelstein, had little choice but accommodate AEG: "His financial condition made him susceptible to pressure and created a conflict between his patient's need and AEG's needs, AEG put Dr. Murray in a position where if he said MJ can't go, he (wouldn't) get paid anymore. His contract was over." Panish showed the jury the infamous e-mail that read, "We want to remind [Murray] that it's AEG, not MJ, who's paying his salary."

"You don’t do that with white gloves," said the attorney of AEG’s alleged manipulation of Murray, The Los Angeles Times reported. "You do what you gotta do if you want to be No. 1 in this rough business of concert promotions."

AEG's lead attorney, in turn, promised "ugly stuff" to come, CNN reports. Lawyer Marvin Putnam says his clients have no choice but to dig into unsavory background about Jackson, including child-molestation accusations and persistent drug use.

"Mr. Jackson is a person who was known to doctor shop," Putnam told the cable-news outlet. "He was known to be someone who would tell one doctor one thing and another doctor something else."

Squabbling is also underway about the speculated value of Jackson as a touring act, had he lived. Meanwhile, AEG has asked the judge, should it be found liable, to reduce damages against the monies earned by the star's estate from a documentary based on This Is It rehearsals, since it is based on video furnished by AEG. (Jackson family attorney Brian Panish ridiculed this idea prior to his opening arguments.)

The witness list is also blockbuster, including ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley, AEG head Philip Anschutz, Sharon Osbourne, Prince, Spike Lee, Quincy Jones and Diana Ross, among others.

Because it takes place in civil court, both sides will be allowed to produce evidence not previously revealed in the criminal proceedings against Dr. Murray, who is now serving time for involuntary manslaughter.

The trail testimony could include the late singer’s drug excuse, mounting debts and the accusations of child molestation that have dogged him over the years.

Court documents describe the situation: "A severely, visibly ill pop star with a known history of drug problems, a financially desperate doctor who demanded highly unusual, life-saving medical equipment, and enormous pressure on the doctor to ensure the pop star's performance (instead of his well-being)… AEG should have realized this was a dangerous cocktail."

AEG and company executives, including Randy Phillips, have argued that it was Jackson who hired Murray and insisted on him as his doctor.

"The basic standoff is going to be Michael Jackson being the author of his own demise, versus a profit-maximizing, greedy even, commercial enterprise exercising its control," said USC law professor Jody Armour told the L.A. Times.

The late superstar’s lifestyle will be put as much on trial as anything else. The plaintiffs not only have to persuade jurors that AEG is to blame for his death, but to show how much he would have earned had he lived. AEG will try to prove that not only is it not at fault, but that Jackson's erratic behavior had diminished his earning power irrevocably.

Doctors will testify about Jackson's health, and accountants and financial advisors will talk about his money problems and what he stood to make in the AEG deal.

AEG advanced Jackson close to $30 million, which included a $15-million line of credit, a $5-million advance, $7.5 million to cover production costs to mount the shows and rent for a $100,000-a-month Holmby Hills mansion.

If the singer failed to generate enough income to pay back the loans, according to the lawsuit, AEG could seize his assets, including his portion of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

More than 250 pages of emails that seem to show AEG executives knew about Jackson's mental and physical frailties as he prepared for his London shows could go a long way towards determining the outcome.

For instance, AEG Live President/Chief Executive Phillips wrote in an email to his boss, the since-departed Tim Leiweke: "MJ is locked in his room drunk and despondent. I [am] trying to sober him up."

He later wrote: "I screamed at him so loud the walls are shaking. He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self-loathing and doubt now that it is show time."

Another issue will involve whether Jackson or AEG actually employed Murray—who was being paid $150,000 a month. Murray, who worked with Jackson for two months to prepare him for the concerts, signed a contract the night before Jackson's death, but it was never signed by AEG executives or the singer. Though Jackson had agreed to only 50 dates in London, AEG proposed a three-year worldwide tour in which Phillips estimated ticket sales could exceed $450 million. It’s been estimated AEG's profits would hit $115 million for the London shows, with Jackson earning $1 million a night.

VRRMMMM (5/17a)
Celebrity death match underway on album chart (5/17a)
Another talented journalist trapped in the career cul de sac (5/17a)
Cornering the market on surefire headliners (5/17a)
A genre mash-up at the home of the Cowboys (5/17a)
Gosh, we hope there are more press releases.
Unless the Senate manages to make this whole thing go away, that is.
No, not that one.
Now 100% unlicensed!

 First Name

 Last Name


Captcha: (type the characters above)