The story of MICHAEL JACKSON, TOHME, TOM BARRACK and AEG LIVE. Part 2
Despite the incredible technical difficulty in writing I am still trying to make an outline of the events preceding Michael’s death – just to understand what forces were at play there.
HOW IT STARTED
The media said that by November 2008 Randy Phillips had been chasing Michael for two years already. It might be a slight exaggeration as exactly two years before that Michael was still in Ireland, but in December 2006 he did indeed return to the US, and AEG evidently appeared on Michael’s horizon almost immediately:
March 4 2009
In late November Randy Phillips, President and CEO of AEG Live, said that the company — which books and runs the O2 — has been chasing Jackson for two years looking for a multi-night engagement. Though no deal was signed at the time, Phillips said AEG has had a “standing offer” to Jackson since 2006 to re-create his landmark Thriller album in its entirety at the O2 but had struggled to nail down a firm deal with the elusive singer.
However in 2007 Randy Phillips found Michael disinterested in their offer. Their first offer was a world tour, then it changed into a tour of several cities and then into a Las Vegas type residency tour. But Michael was working with another concert promoter (Jack Wishna) and turned AEG down. Phillips’ then verdict was that Michael was “not ready”.
Phillips had his eye on Jackson for some time. In 2007, Phillips had approached the singer with a deal for a comeback, but Jackson, who was working with different advisors, turned him down. “He wasn’t ready,” Phillips recalled.
In spite of what people said about Michael’s frail condition we cannot be sure that Michael was indeed ill at the time. Mentally and emotionally he was under a very heavy strain, and this did take a toll on his health. In the quiet of his beautiful mansion rented for him by Jack Wishna he could function as a family man, and could work on his music and practice dancing, but for facing an audience he needed at least some encouragement and goodwill from the general public. This was the essential component for his rejuvenation and would have worked miracles on him as the example of Ireland showed it.
However all of it was missing. What was present instead was open public hostility and ridicule which rid Michael of the last shreds of confidence in himself.
Randy Phillips described Michael as a non-confident man. Like all of us he must have also seen the newspaper reports of Michael in a wheelchair and thought him to be in a very frail condition and not fit to perform. This was how he regarded him two years prior to their future agreement, and this is an important point for us to remember.
When by the end of 2007 Michael’s financial situation aggravated and the problems with Neverland’s foreclosure became an urgency, Jermaine Jackson (and probably Janet Jackson living in Las Vegas at the time) brought in Tohme Tohme into Michael’s life with a request to help him save Neverland.
TOHME MEETS MICHAEL JACKSON
According to Tohme he met Michael in Las Vegas in 2008.
Tohme had previously worked with Colony Capital. He was absolutely not the only option for Michael Jackson at the time – besides Jack Wisha and his promising long-term deals in Las Vegas as well as occasional lucrative offers like the one from concert promoters like AllGoodEntertainment, Michael had a friend and advisor billionaire Ron Burkle who was also consulting him and offering him his own recipes of financial restructuring. However Tohme somehow managed to get the upper hand over the other possibilities:
Jackson‘s brother Jermaine enlisted the help of Dr. Tohme Tohme, an orthopedic surgeon-turned-businessman who had previously worked with Colony Capital. Tohme reached out to Barrack, who said he was initially reluctant to get involved because Jackson had already sought advice from Barrack’s friend and fellow billionaire Ron Burkle. “I said, ‘My god, if Ron can’t figure it out, I can’t figure it out,’ ” Barrack said.
From the Estate court documents now filed against Tohme we learn that Tohme began working for Michael in January 2008, so this must have been immediately after meeting him in Vegas. The picture of Michael painted by Tohme is that of a man living in seclusion but nevertheless practicing, dancing and working on his music:
‘When I first met him in Las Vegas, he was out of touch. Michael was secluded and retreating from everybody. It was just him and his kids. He used to use the wheelchair. I said, let’s get rid of this. You have to realise that you had to baby Michael Jackson. I wanted people to see him as a healthy human being.
‘But he was working. We put a stage in his house in Vegas because before he was practicing in the local hotels. He was writing music, working with choreographers. And after we start talking to AEG for the London gigs, I decided Vegas was not the right place for Michael to stay at the time, especially for the children…it is very hot in the summer.
‘LA is where all the action is. I convinced him to move to LA and he took residence at the Bel Air Hotel for three months. Then I rented the house for him. Then we signed the deal with AEG and we went to London – him, his kids, and me – and stayed at the Lanesborough Hotel.’
Tohme said he talked with Michael Jackson for hours on the telephone and in person, and finally persuaded him to move to Los Angeles where “all the action is” (Tom Barrack and AEG are indeed there).
For three months after coming to Los Angeles Michael lived in the Bel Air Hotel and at around Christmas time he took residence in the mansion in Carolwood drive which was rented for him by Tohme for a mere $1,2mln a year. The rent was to be paid from the advance Michael received in his deal with AEG Live. The chronology suggests that Michael moved to Los Angeles sometime in September 2008.
….after speaking with Tohme for “hours each day … on the telephone and in person,” Jackson agreed in fall 2008 to move back to Los Angeles. He took up residence in the luxurious Hotel Bel-Air, nestled in the hills above Sunset Boulevard.
In court filings, Tohme says he worked with the star on a months-long search for a rental property, culminating in the choice of the Holmby Hills residence where Jackson subsequently died.
In August 2008, possibly prior to his move to Los Angeles, Michael signed two General Powers of Attorney for Tohme. The documents invested Tohme with huge powers – now he was Michael’s fully authorized representative, so when Tohme later said that “everything was going through him” he was telling the truth (unfortunately).
But already the next month after authorizing Tohme to act on his behalf Michael was regretting it very much indeed. On September 23 he spoke to June Gatlin and she gathered from that conversation that Michael was deathly, deathly afraid of his manager Tohme. Within a month or so of seeing Tohme running his business Michael already realized that this person was bringing in a division between him and his representatives and had cut him off all his advisors so that he could no longer speak to anyone at all:
June: That’s not good.
MJ: I know it’s not good. I don’t like it. I wanna get somebody in there with him that I know and trust. … I don’t know what’s in my accounts. I don’t know.
NBC’s Jeff Rossen: How much control did Tohme Tohme have over Michael Jackson’s finances?
Frank Dileo: He had pretty much complete control.
JR: In what way?
FD: He had checking accounts, he was having money put into the accounts, he was signing checks.
JR: He was signing checks for Michael Jackson?
FD: Yeah, yeah…
JR: And Michael allowed him that?
The NBC correspondent said that Michael’s friends and business associates were sure that Tohme was abusing his power – both financially and emotionally, cutting Michael from his friends and even from his own family. Jeff Rossen talked to Dileo and Gatlin about it:
Jeff Rossen: Did Michael Jackson trust the wrong people?
Frank Dileo: A lot of times in his life he did.
JR: What did Michael tell you?
FD: He said he is trying to say who I can see and where I can see and I don’t like it.
June Gatlin: He’d taken over Michael’s complete life. He’d taken over. Michael was deathly afraid of him. Deathly afraid.
JR: What was he afraid of?
June: He was afraid of who this man is, afraid of whatever this man may or be capable of doing.
Voiceover: “Court papers reveal that Tohme was accused of everything from Fraud to making threats.”
The General power of attorney did indeed give Tohme many rights, however it did not allow him to cut ties between Michael and his other partners or hide information from him. These powers of attorney were not turning Michael into their prisoner and in case Tohme took wrong decisions Michael could exercise his right to revoke them – which he finally did in April 2009.
However when in September 2008 Michael was speaking to June Gatlin he didn’t know what decisions Tohme was taking and what he was doing behind his back. To find it out he needed to talk to someone else whom he trusted and who could check, but all these people were cut off from Michael – which is the reason why Tohme was keeping Michael in isolation in the first place.
What we know of Tohme now was not known to Michael then, and though he was deeply apprehensive of Tohme, he was also involved with Tohme in his business over Neverland for which Tohme had been brought in at all, and this process was too late to stop.
TOM BARRACK AND HIS COLONY CAPITAL
All Tohme’s help as regards Neverland was limited to contacting Michael with Tom Barrack of Colony Capital. From the media we learn that Barrack met Michael as early as 2008 when Michael was still in Las Vegas and was living in a “fifties stucco rental house in Palomino Lane” which is supposed to convey to us that it was a far cry from the grand house rented for him by Wishna in which Michael had lived until the end of 2007.
The article in the LA Times written on May 31, 2009 or three weeks before Michael Jackson’s death is describing Tom Barrack in glorious colors as if he were a kind of a ‘savior’ of Michael Jackson. Their story sounds like a complete fairy tale for Michael:
May 31, 2009
Tom Barrack, a Westside financier who made billions buying and selling distressed properties, flew to Las Vegas in March 2008 to check out a troubled asset. But his target was not a struggling hotel chain or failed bank.
It was Michael Jackson. The world’s bestselling male pop artist was hunkered down with his three children in a dumpy housing compound in an older section of town. At 49, he was awash in nearly $400 million of debt and so frail that he greeted visitors in a wheelchair. The rich international friends who offered him refuge after his 2005 acquittal on molestation charges had fallen away. His Santa Barbara ranch, Neverland, was about to be sold at public auction.
In Jackson, Barrack saw the sort of undervalued asset his private equity firm, Colony Capital, had succeeded with in the past. He wrote a check to save the ranch and placed a call to a friend, conservative business magnate Philip Anschutz, whose holdings include the concert production firm AEG Live.
Fifteen months later, Jackson is living in a Bel-Air mansion and rehearsing for a series of 50 sold-out shows in London’s O2 Arena. The intervention of two billionaires with more experience in the boardroom than the recording studio seems on course to accomplish what a parade of others over the last dozen years could not: getting Jackson back onstage.
In fact Barrack describes the scene of meeting Michael with rare cynicism. According to his own words he got interested in the deal only when the Sony/ATV catalog was placed on the table in front of him:
Barrack’s turn into entertainment investing began with a visit to Michael Jackson’s home in Las Vegas in 2008. Barrack had received a call from Tohme Tohme, a fellow Lebanese-American who had become Jackson’s business manager.
Jackson hadn’t released a new album or done a world tour in years, but he had three significant assets: the Neverland property, the MiJac catalogue of his own music, and the enormous Sony/ATV catalogue, which included, among other songs, most of the Beatles’ oeuvre. Jackson was facing a crisis, Tohme said. The holder of $270 million in loans to Jackson was foreclosing on Neverland and planned to sell it in five days. Would Barrack meet with Jackson? “It’s so not Tom’s thing,” Lowe says. “Getting roped into spending half an hour with Michael Jackson in some weird house is just not on his agenda.”
Somewhat grudgingly, Barrack arrived at Jackson’s fifties stucco rental on Palomino Lane. “Not one blade of grass,” Barrack says. “The house was old and musty.” The 1,000-plus-page Sony/ATV catalogue was on the table between them, and Barrack was quickly won over. “For sure, the guy is an absolute genius,” Barrack says. “He was remembering not just songs but every performance, every date, every script.” When it came to business matters, though, Jackson was lost. He knew only that if Neverland was foreclosed on as scheduled, it would trigger a cascade of financial devastation. For the past decade, he had repeatedly staved off financial reckoning by borrowing. Now he was out of options.
As a rule, Barrack is drawn to distressed situations. One of his rules for success. http://nymag.com/news/business/69782/index2.html
So this is when Tom Barrack got interested. He was heading for another success story for himself.
TOM BARRACK SETS CONDITIONS
From the LA Times article I got the impression that during their talk in Las Vegas in March 2008 Tom Barrack practically set a condition to Michael Jackson that he would buy the foreclosure note on Neverland only if Michael had a new “caretaker”.
If he was talking about a person it was surely Tohme Tohme who as a result of this change in status was turning from a mere one-time intermediary between Michael and Colony Capital into Michael’s full-time manager invested with huge powers.
But since Barrack also mentioned a ‘podium’ he could also be talking of AEG Live whose boss Phil Anschutz was his personal friend and whose company Tom Barrack was imposing on Michael as a condition on which he would buy the foreclosure note on Neverland.
It is also possible that Tom Barrack saw himself in the role of Michael’s “caretaker” as the title of the article below suggests it. Whatever it was, it was due to those conditions set by Barrack that the two entities – Tohme and AEG Live – were firmly placed into Michael’s life.
Michael was given a choice to either go into business with these people or Barrack was not going to “save” Neverland.
The condition of having Tohme as Michael’s caretaker will explain why in September 2008 Michael could not rid himself of this man though he was mortally afraid of him and realized that associating with him further bore him no good. In September 2008 Neverland was not yet “saved” and Tohme was a necessary condition for it to happen and therefore had to stay.
Either the LA Times correspondent got things mixed up or the timing provided by Barrack was intentionally wrong, but in that article Barrack says that his decisive meeting with Michael was around the time of the auction of Jackson’s home possessions. This is absolutely wrong as the auction was to be arranged in March 2009 while we are still in the year 2008 – even before the Colony Capital bought the foreclosure note on Neverland:
…he [Tom Barrack] was drawn to the deal. He owns a ranch five miles from Neverland, and his sons were among local children Jackson invited over for field days at the ranch.
With the auction of Jackson’s home and possessions just days away, Barrack made the singer a proposition.
“I sat down with him and said, ‘Look . . . we can buy the note and restructure your financial empire,’ ” Barrack said. But, he told him, “what you need is a new caretaker. A new podium. A new engine.”
Tohme, who acted as Jackson’s manager until recently, recalled the urgency of the situation. “If he didn’t move fast, he would have lost the ranch,” Tohme said. “That would have been humiliating for Michael.”
To obtain Michael’s agreement to his suggestions Barrack portrayed to him all the horrors of his financial situation saying that he was heading for a disaster unless he went to work (with AEG). My opinion is that much more lucrative deals could have been made with Jack Wishna and even AllGoodEntertainment, however the attraction of the Colony Capital/Tohme/AEG’s project was that it came as a package of settling the matter with Neverland, restructuring Michael’s finances and making a resident tour of shows in London on a short-term basis.
The difference from Jack Wishna’s project was that once a special Michael Jackson casino was launched it had to be run on a long-term basis while Michael didn’t really want to perform forever. With AEG Live Michael hoped only for ten concerts and that was it.
Below is how Tom Barrack persuaded him into a deal with AEG Live. He presented it as a choice between Michael’s success story (if he went for Barrack’s plan) or a funeral (if he didn’t). In reality it was exactly the opposite of course, however there was no way for Michael Jackson to know it at the time. This article is actually where Barrack is setting his conditions to Michael:
Barrack had a relationship with the loan holder, Fortress, and was able to get an extension to give his Colony team time to crunch the numbers. They concluded that the only way to make a deal work would be for Jackson to start generating new revenue, which meant performing old material.
Two days later, Barrack called Jackson. “I told him: ‘Where you are is an insolvable puzzle unless you’re willing to go back to work. If you’re willing to do that, then we can help, but if you’re not willing to do that, it’s just presiding over a funeral.’ ” At first, Jackson demurred. “He really had a hard time with that, and he struggled for about three days. Finally, he calls back and says, ‘You’re right, I’ll do it.’ ”
Colony agreed to bail out Jackson; in return, the firm would take ownership of Neverland and arrange for AEG, the concert promoter owned by Barrack’s friend Phil Anschutz, to stage a comeback. An unforeseen complication arose when Barrack received a call from the King of Bahrain, whom he knew from Sardinia, where Barrack owns much of the Costa Smeralda; astonishingly, Jackson had apparently forgotten that while being hosted in Bahrain, he had signed over a number of recording and performance rights to the king’s son. Colony had to buy out that interest. Jackson moved into a gated $100,000-a-month mansion in Bel-Air to prepare for a run of 50 concerts in London that would relaunch his career.
The above was very informative. First of all we get a confirmation of the condition on which Tom Barrack was to bail out Jackson – he would become the owner of Neverland and arrange for his friend Phil Anschutz Michael’s comeback shows (or otherwise the deal was off).
In addition to that the article mentions some Michael’s “interest in recording and performance rights” which he had allegedly signed over to the prince of Bahrain. We learn that Tom Barrack also “bought them out” and is now their owner too. I wonder what that “interest” actually is.
The deal was proclaimed as “saving” Neverland though to me it sounds as an acquisition of very expensive property of 12,14 hectares at an extremely cheap price and at a very convenient location as it is only 5 miles away from Tom Barrack’s own estate.
Wiki says that in 1988 Michael Jackson purchased the property for a sum variously reported to be $16.5mln to $30 mln, and invested into its development probably half as much or even more. Twenty years later Tom Barrack bought it at half the original price and announced in every paper that he “saved” it. I wonder how it was different from a simple purchase of the property below its market price?
Wiki describes the events in the period of February – May 2008:
On February 25, 2008, Jackson received word from Financial Title Company, the trustee, that unless he paid off $24,525,906.61 by March 19, a public auction would go forward of the land, buildings, and other items such as the rides, trains, and art.On March 13, 2008, Jackson’s lawyer L. Londell McMillan announced that a private agreement had been reached with the private investment group, Fortress Investment, to save Jackson’s ownership of the ranch. Before the agreement, Jackson owed three months‘ arrears on the property.McMillan did not reveal the details of the deal.
On May 12, 2008, a foreclosure auction for the ranch was canceled after an investment company, Colony Capital LLC, purchased the loan, which was in default. In a press release, Jackson stated, “I am pleased with recent developments involving Neverland Ranch and I am in discussions with Colony and Tom Barrack with regard to the Ranch and other matters that would allow me to focus on the future.
The deal was finalized in November 2008. The matter that would “allow Michael to focus on the future” was his deal with AEG Live which was to be struck two months later, in January 2009:
On November 10, 2008, Jackson transferred the title to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company, LLC, and neighbors reported immediate activity on the property, including the amusement rides being trucked along the highway. Jackson still owned an unknown stake in the property, since Sycamore Valley Ranch was a (an investment company run by billionaire Tom Barrack). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neverland_Ranch
Let us note that November 2008 was the period when Michael had to fulfill Tom Barrack’s conditions irrespective of how fearful he was of Barrack’s friend Tohme Tohme or how apprehensive he was of going into a deal with AEG Live.
And though in respect of Tohme as a condition for the deal we can still have some doubts, as regards AEG Live it is absolutely clear that it was a condition for the Neverland deal – Tom Barrack was sending Michael Jackson to work, and to work for AEG.
I was especially struck by the manner in which Tom Barrack spoke of Michael Jackson not as a human being, but as a troubled asset or “operating business” totally lacking any human component. He regarded Michael as a commodity:
Barrack built his fortune making deals, and in some ways, Neverland began as just another one—a contrarian bet on a troubled asset, an operating business backed by real estate. But in this case, the operating business was a person. Colony would bail Jackson out of his substantial debt; in return, the firm would assume ownership of Neverland, and Jackson, after a thirteen-year hiatus, would go back to work to generate new revenue.
One of the most amazing things in this amazing recruiting business is that Tom Barrack takes the credit for giving Michael access to AEG and implies that he brought them over to him, though AEG had been hovering at Michael’s door for two years already before that.
Despite his own story on how he forced Michael Jackson into working for AEG Live, in other sources Tom Barrack presents the case as if the “devout Christian” Anschutz had to be persuaded to go into the deal with Jackson and it was after Tom Barrack talked to his friend that he agreed to put Jackson in touch with Randy Phillips (!):
After buying Neverland, Barrack called his friend Anschutz. Barrack said the prospect of helping Jackson, given his recent criminal case, gave Anschutz, a devout Christian, pause. (Anschutz declined to be interviewed.) …Ultimately, Anschutz agreed to put Jackson in touch with Randy Phillips, the chief executive of his concert subsidiary.http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/31/entertainment/et-michael-jackson31/2
Ultimately Anschutz agreed to put Jackson in touch with Randy Phillips?
I wish they had checked Randy Phillips’ accounts of the same period before they disgraced themselves by telling us Barrack’s arrogant nonsense. Some billionaires are definitely thinking too much of themselves.
And this “devout Christian” thing is simply driving me mad. If they weren’t repeating it so often I wouldn’t be tempted to recall equally often that devout Christians are supposed to care for their fellow beings and not to set impossible three month schedules with hardly any days off between the shows for 50-year old dancers who are to sing and not lip synch their songs while dancing.
Let me remind these devout Christians that other human beings are not machines and require rest between the shows, and that they should also be adequately remunerated for their job. And that tickets to the show of the best world performer should not be priced at a minimum but should cost at least twice as much, not leaving a chance for some concert promoters and touts to make fortunes on secondary tickets without moving their little finger and getting their ass off the chair they are sitting on.
The fact that it was AEG dying to get Michael into the deal is proven by one of those emails sent by Paul Gongaware and leaked to the press. Over there this co-CEO of AEG Live was giving advice to their negotiators (including Anschutz) how to behave with Michael Jackson not to frighten him off from the start of it. The email makes it clear that even at the stage of meeting the big boss Philip Anschutz Michael was still wary and not too trustful of AEG Live. It also shows how very much willing AEG was to get Michael into their net.
To make Michael relax and develop trust in the AEG people Paul Gongaware instructed them to wear casual clothes and talk fluff with him (fluff –soft, light, downy mass; something of no consequence):
Anschutz invited Jackson to a meeting at a Las Vegas villa in September 2008. Paul Gongaware, an AEG Live executive who knew Jackson, emailed colleagues a strategy memo. Wear casual clothes, he told them, “as MJ is distrustful of people in suits” and expect to talk “fluff” with “Mikey.”
Besides Tom Barrack Tohme is also taking credit for arranging that London tour with Jackson. In his current court papers against the Estate he says that he “played a key, if unspecified, role in the series of 50 concerts Jackson was to perform in London starting in July 2009”.
He [Tohme] points with pride to the crown jewel of his and the new Jackson team’s efforts: the contract with AEG for concerts at the 02 arena in London. http://www.today.com/id/31740617#.UUFxuBeeNEI
Well, even without them telling us we have already guessed that Tohme was one of the makers of that fraudulent contract with AEG Live that plunged Michael into a catastrophe of 50 concerts.
It is the newly discovered link between all these people which is so big news to us now, same as the fact that the Neverland deal was used as a blackmail tool to make Michael agree to cooperation with AEG Live and forcefully plant Tohme into a position of Michael’s caretaker.
This is probably all we needed to know to explain to us why the contract with AEG was not even with Michael Jackson but with Tohme Tohme from the very beginning of it.
This inseparable link between the Colony Capital – Tohme – AEG also explains why Tohme was on almost each page of AEG’s contract with Michael Jackson and was also placed on board of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing and made its trustee on a par with Katherine Jackson.
The whole deal was revolving around Michael’s “troubled assets” the charm of which was irresistible to the Colony Capital, especially since the situation allowed to obtain them as cheap and easy as the Neverland ranch.
I believe that since the moment Tom Barrack saw that music catalog on that table in front of him, getting it into his hands with the help of Tohme and AEG Live most probably became his most cherished dream.
To reach that goal Tohme not only had himself nominated to the Sony/ATV Music publishing board and became its trustee, but openly declared his plans to restructure Michael’s share in both the Beatles and Michael Jackson songs catalogs under the terms we can only guess at.
In fact he said that he was working “with others” on that problem:
He said he was working with others to renegotiate the terms of Jackson’s main assets, his share of the Sony-ATV Music Publishing Catalog which includes music by the Beatles and the catalog of Mijac, the company that controls Michael Jackson’s own music.
Frankly, now I am not even sure that AEG was the worst link in this triumvirate of greed and power around Michael – all the three heads of the dragon are equally ugly and worthy of each other.
TOHME TAKES DECISIONS FOR MICHAEL
Tohme said that Michael was not supposed to look into the way Tohne was running Michael’s business:
“We had an agreement,” Tohme continued. “I would never interfere with his creative decisions and he wouldn’t interfere with my business decisions.”
This beautiful formula – which for sure was none of Michael’s inventions – is best illustrated by the way the negotiations with Randy Phillips of AEG Live were conducted. Michael was fully kept outside the business part of the talks. Whether voluntarily or under Tohme’s pressure, but talking business and money with AEG Live was wholly Tohme Tohme’s responsibility.
At Conrad Murray’s trial Randy Phillips said that with Michael they discussed only the creative side of the show, while the money matters were ‘separate’ and were discussed between AEG Live and Tohme together with his lawyer Dennis Hawk.
At first the negotiations took place between AEG, Tohme/Dennis Hawk and Peter Lopez as Michael’s lawyer. But Lopez was present only at the initial stage and said they had not gone further than the general concept of the arrangement. Then Peter Lopez was brushed aside which was common practice for Tohme who was “building a fence” around Michael and the negotiations continued in the absence of a lawyer representing Michael’s interests. Michael himself was not present either.
Initially, at the beginning of 2008 Michael may have probably even felt relieved that someone reliable and proficient, as he thought Tohme to be, had taken the pressure of business decisions off his shoulders so that he could focus on music at last – at the time he was working on a new album he had started in Ireland and was going to launch new music in addition to the London shows.
However by September 2008 when the powers of attorney were in Tohme’s hands Michael was already utterly unhappy with his new manager. He went along with him simply because he could not break that Neverland/Colony Capital –AEG –Tohme vicious circle, and it was only the shock of facing those 50 concerts with too little space between them which made Michael realize the disaster Tohme had got him into and made him fire him at last.
AEG was not much different from Tohme. Even the name of the January document they sent to Tohme – a letter of intent which they later passed off as their contract – shows that these were their intentions towards Michael. And their intentions presented the worst possible conditions for their client and the best possible conditions for themselves.
They included a theoretical possibility of a very harsh scenario which set 3,5 shows per week (the show/day-off/show/day-off regimen) for a leg of 10 weeks initially planned for July 26-September 30. This was the maximum that could be required of Michael by AEG in case Michael’s company Artistco approved the itinerary (Artistco was Michael Jackson Company LLC presided and run by Tohme).
The minimal number AEG Live fixed in that paper (which was not yet the final agreement) was 18 concerts for the first leg. If they had stopped at that it would have still been okay for Michael Jackson – if you spread 18 shows over the period of 10 weeks, the intensity of performing would be exactly two shows per week which was the maximum Michael Jackson wanted.
However since it was Tohme who ran Michael Jackson company LLC (Artistco) the number of 18 quickly turned into 30 shows crammed into the same limited period of time and into another 20 shows set at the same mad pace for the winter season of the tour. These were the decisions Tohme as the Colony Capital “caretaker” took for Michael Jackson, most probably without ever consulting him.
THE MONEY FOR TOHME’S SERVICES
For his dubious services to Jackson Tohme requested gigantic money. The first fee he charged was 10% of the $24,3mln paid by the Colony Capital for Neverland. This fee was to cover the purely symbolic service of bringing Michael Jackson and his friend Tom Barrack together though it was his responsibility as Michael’s manager to provide him with a choice with a view to select the best investor and the best restructuring plan.
Then Tohme arranged for himself a salary of $35,000 plus expenses, irrespective of the result of his work and further 10% from every Michael Jackson’s deal brought to him via Colony Capital.
On top of that Tohme was to get 15% of all gross compensation received by Jackson as a result of his work and a salary of $100,000 a month in a deal with AEG Live.
This is very well laid out in the Estate’s suit against Tohme:
But the Jackson estate alleges that throughout his dealings on Jackson’s behalf, Tohme behaved with impropriety. When he made the deal to prevent foreclosure on Neverland, says the suit, Tohme failed to disclose fully to Jackson that he had an existing (though unspecified) relationship with Colony. Jackson could have gotten better terms had he been represented by an independent adviser, says the estate, and the $2.5 million fee Tohme arranged for himself was far in excess of the norm.
…For rendering all these services, Tohme claims he is owed $2.3 million for his Ranch rescue, plus 15 percent of Jackson’s gross compensation starting July 2, 2008, and continuing beyond the pop icon’s death.
Apart from those deals, Tohme had arranged to have Jackson pay him $35,000 a month plus expenses to act as manager. He set up additional payments to himself of $100,000 a month to function as a producer for the London engagements.
So Tohme also wanted 15% of all Michael Jackson’s gross compensation?
Does it mean that Tohme was counting on having 15% of Michael’s money as a result of his 50 concerts for AEG? I hope I am wrong here but in the messy AEG papers this 15% Tohme’s share could easily become another of Tohme’s incomes in addition to the $100,000 which were already there…
This is probably a convenient moment to remind everyone that Tohme presented himself as a selfless guy who just wanted to help Michael and loved him very much from the bottom of his heart:
“I saw him with his children and I had never seen a better father. … I decided to do what I could to help him.”
“For the last year and a half I was the closest person to Michael Jackson,” Tohme said.
He would only briefly discuss Jackson’s finances. During his time with the superstar, Tohme said, he was paid nothing but was able to negotiate lucrative business deals that would secure the future of Jackson’s children.
The day Jackson died, as Tohme rushed to the hospital unsure if his friend was alive or dead, he said he remembered precious moments: Jackson bringing his children to Tohme’s house for Thanksgiving dinner; Jackson and his children singing “Happy Birthday” to Tohme on the phone; the last time he saw Jackson at Staples Center, rehearsing for his big comeback. And he remembered Jackson’s last words to him that day: “I love you.”
As regards Tohme’s salary of $100,000 a month the biggest insult of it was that though it was initially proclaimed as AEG’s payment to Tohme in the long run it was to be paid from Michael’s pocket again – the ‘contract’ said that Tohme was to be paid by AEG Live while the Appendix included Tohme’s services into production costs, and production costs were eventually placed on Michael Jackson’s shoulders.
If we threw away the Appendix (it doesn’t carry the date or signature anyway and could have been added by AEG at any time) the only thing that would remain after that would be their ‘contract’ and Tohme would become AEG’s responsibility again.
TOHME AND AEG DISMISS PEOPLE AROUND MICHAEL
While Tohme was receiving $100,000 a month and was planning for himself the rest of those incredible payments he was firing Michael’s closest associates at the pretext of cutting his expenses. The children’s nanny Grace Rwaramba was fired twice, allegedly on Jackson’s orders:
“I built a fence around Michael to keep people out,” he said, acknowledging that he cut costs by firing many members of the Jackson staff, including security guards. And he twice fired the children’s nanny, Grace Rawaramba, on Jackson’s orders. “I was trying to do what we could to maximize his profits and minimize spending. I wanted to find a way to reel in all the loans he had. http://www.azcentral.com/ent/celeb/articles/2009/07/04/20090704jackson-tohme.html
The correspondence around the nanny’s second dismissal in April 2009 is a fantastic proof of Tohme merging with AEG into so close a unity that the two became virtually indistinguishable from each other.
The fact is that another of Paul Gongaware’s emails says that it was actually him, the AEG co-CEO and not even Tohme, who fired the nanny of Michael’s children at the pretext of cutting his expenses:
“AEG has been cutting down on Mr. Jackson’s expenses in anticipation of his upcoming tour. Unfortunately at this time the services you provide do not meet our needs,” AEG exec Paul Gongaware told Rwaramba April 19.
If anyone is still under the illusion that AEG had no control over Michael Jackson’s life the above email will be just all you need to show to these people.
Besides the fact that AEG had no business to dismiss any of Michael’s personal staff, and this being clearly a move to fully isolate Michael from any assistance from the outside, it also raises the question how Michael Jackson was supposed to effectively get ready for the shows if he knew that there was absolutely no one to take care of his kids while he was at the rehearsals? Isn’t it a strange way for AEG to ensure Michael’s attendance of rehearsals every day?
The media made snide remarks about Peter Lopez’s dismissal which took place while Michael was preparing for the London concerts.
First of all the media saw it as Michael’s doing (though it was not) and second it regarded it as a sign of Michael backing out of his obligations to AEG Live. I would not be surprised that this theory was leaked to the press by Tohme and AEG to coerce Michael into agreeing to their terms.
The rumor of Peter Lopez being fired was leaked on February 28, 2009 which was a week before the March news-conference in London.
By that moment a month had already passed since the AEG letter of intent was signed (January 26, 2009), however the matter was not yet finalized as there was still no final contract. Michael was surely insisting on his own trusted lawyer Peter Lopez to look into those documents and this must have been exactly the reason why the lawyer was fired. That disgraceful document could not be shown to anyone at all for fear of its cancellation, so to me Peter Lopez’s dismissal at exactly that moment in time does not look like a mere accident.
And all the rest of our conclusions are based on the fact that the contract was not signed. If there was no contract no performer would ever agree to take upon himself any obligations concerning any concrete shows – how could he if he did not know on what terms he was doing it and everything was still very indefinite and undecided?
However Michael in that situation was termed “lazy” and a “coward”. This theme rings a familiar note and reminds us once again of the AEG Live co-CEO Paul Gongaware and his other email where he also called Michael “lazy” and said that he “constantly changes his mind to fit his immediate wants”.
From the article below we find that the news conference where Michael was to announce his London shows was to take place approximately ten days earlier – on February 24 or 25. The staff of the O2 Arena was informed about the future announcement but it never came and no explanation was given for the delay.
This postponement also speaks to a big crisis in Michael’s life at that moment, which evidently arose due to a dispute over the need for Peter Lopez to review the contract before its finalizing. We will never know it for sure but from the way Tohme was running Michael’s business there is a possibility that Michael did not see the full AEG papers at all.
By the way it could be due to this terrible uncertainty over the documents and what he was getting into that Michael could be “drunk and despondent” on the day of that March news-conference…
However for the Newshound paper all of it is much fun. The paper provides a full list of Michael’s fictional and true faults since time immemorial to explain how “lazy” Jackson is. What you see here is actually a sample of what AEG Live would have placed in every paper if Michael had cancelled his concerts in 2009 :
FEBRUARY 28, 2009
Sad but predictable news has reached the Newshound that Michael Jackson’s O2 negotiations have faltered for a third time.
Selected staff at Sony BMG’s London HQ had been briefed that Jackson would announce details of his O2 residency on Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, staff at the O2 arena were told over a week ago that the residency would be announced in a press conference on either Wednesday or Thursday of this week.
By midday on Thursday there was confusion at Sony HQ as to why the announcement had not been made. However, staff were reassured that the announcement would be made by the end of the day.
The announcement never came.
The Newshound is now hearing whispers that Jackson has fired Peter Lopez, the star’s music lawyer of several years. Lopez had been representing Jackson in negotiations surrounding the residency since they began in 2007. Rumours of the lawyer’s dismissal are as yet unconfirmed and the reasons behind the alleged dismissal remain unclear.
The Newshound, however, will be so bold as to venture that should these rumours prove true, there is just one reason behind the decision.
Jackson is extremely work shy and has been since the late ninties. In 1999 the star signed contracts to perform two concerts at the turn of the millennium. However, Jackson failed to perform those concerts and never offered a legitimate reason as to why.
Jackson approached his next studio album, Invincible, so lazily that Sony rejected it in its original state. Insiders claim that Jackson was so addicted to alcohol and painkillers that friends and colleagues feared for his life. The star reportedly had no interest in the project, earning most of his songwriting credits by changing occasional words in other people’s compositions.
Prior to the album’s release, Jackson performed two largely mimed concerts in New York, infuriating producer David Gest by showing up high on painkillers.
The star went on to record one music video for Invincible but shunned all subsequent promotion, branding his record company ‘racist’.
Later, in a 2003 television special, the star declared that he hated touring.
In late 2003 Jackson struck a peace deal with Sony, agreeing to embark on a short European tour to promote his ‘Number Ones’ compilation album. However, it is worth noting that although Jackson technically agreed to the tour, he had already got wind of an impending child abuse allegation and hired Mark Geragos as his defence lawyer. As such, it could be the case that Jackson knew he would never have to fulfill that particular obligation.
Since his child molestation trial Jackson has promised charity singles, a music video and an album – and, more recently, claimed to be ‘finalising’ TV specials and a world tour. To date none of these projects, some of which date back to 2005, have ever seen the light of day.
No evidence exists to suggest that the star has completed any work on his new record apart from a lackluster duet with Akon, featuring a vocal so half-hearted that Jackson could have recorded it in under an hour.
Jackson displayed further laziness early last year when he reneged on a deal with Sony to promote ‘Thriller 25’ at the Grammy Awards. The star was due to perform a live medley and then complete a backstage interview for the promotional podcast series known as the ‘Thrillercasts’.
Jackson angered Sony by failing to complete either activity and enraged Grammy organisers to such an extent that they cancelled an ‘all-star salute to the King of Pop’, despite having already advertised it on national television.
Sony sources also told the Newshound in late 2007 that Jackson had recently backed out of an X Factor appearance, claiming he had done so because the press had ‘ruined the surprise’.
During the last 18 months Jackson has become involved in serious discussions with AEG Live – promoters for the O2 arena – on three separate occasions; once in late 2007, once in early 2008 and once during the last fortnight.
It seems that firing Peter Lopez could be Jackson’s way of backing out for a third time, effectively killing the negotiations by removing his only point of contact. This would be typical of Jackson’s cowardly approach to dealing with problems, which tends to consist of either running away and leaving somebody else to clear up his mess or trying to place the blame on a third party. Or, quite often, both.
However, speculation is rife that the O2 has already booked dates for Jackson’s residency, with no concerts currently being marketed between July 6th and August 5th. Rumour also suggests that some papers could already have been signed, which – if true – could leave Jackson fighting one of the most intense legal battles of his career.
The future of Jackson’s O2 residency is unclear. The only certainty is that Sony employees and O2 employees were expecting an announcement on Wednesday or Thursday. That announcement never came. At the same time, the steady stream of leaked information has once again dried up, suggesting that negotiations have ceased.
More as and if the Newshound hears it.
The Lowly Newshound
Unfortunately now we cannot ask Peter Lopez about the circumstances around that news conference and the reason why he was fired – a year after Michael’s death Peter Lopez committed a suicide by shooting himself . For some reason there was no weapon found beside his body.
MICHAEL FIRES TOHME
It is hard to imagine Tohme’s fury at seeing that everything he had been trying to gain was lost when Michael Jackson fired him in the middle of March and revoked his power of attorney in April 2009. By then he had been practically in full control Michael’s businesses and even life.
The Estate’s court papers say:
The NBC report about Tohme and June Gatlin’s recording mentioned earlier said that Michael wrote a letter about Tohme’s dismissal on May 5 but Tohme still ‘did not take the hint’ and continued doing business on Michael’s behalf.
Considering all the information we have about Michael trying to dismiss Tohme earlier – first in March 2009 and then in April 2009, when he revoked Tohme’s powers of attorney – the third Michael’s attempt to fire Tohme on May 5 testifies to Tohme’s fierce resistance to Michael’s attempts to free himself of this person.
Despite Michael’s wishes Tohme stayed in their project until after Michael’s death, and even in the hospital made an announcement about his demise as his manager and spokesman. Frank Dileo was also present but was not given a chance to speak.
The NBC says that two weeks after Michael’s death Tohme was saying to one of their correspondents,
- “I’m still in charge of Michael Jackson’s business till otherwise I am informed not to do so”.
Below is the full NBC video. At the very end of the program Jeff Rossen of NBC asked June Gatlin if Michael was trying to change his life around in the end and she answered that Michael was not only trying to change his life, but Michael was changing his life and firing Tohme was a big part of it.
The very least we can say about Tohme is that as Michael Jackson’s “manager” he never stood by his interests. Tohme was simply using Michael as a way to get all his possessions and the infinite riches of his catalogs – whether for his own self or others. In the face of Tohme Michael was fighting not only one person – he was facing a huge conglomerate of Tohme, Colony Capital and AEG Live. Their interests seemed to have merged into a big and ugly unity where Tohme was just a convenient means to reaching their common goals.
Tohme’s certainty that he would stay even despite Michael’s will could spring only from the huge support he was getting from the other parts of the triumvirate, and this proves more than anything else that he was taking orders not from Michael as his boss, but from these two parties opposing Michael.
Michael was fighting this wall and trying to clear his life of further destruction from these people. In April 2009 he also fired the accountants brought into the project by Tohme and Barrack – the accountants had been with him for a year since the time he met Barrack. Barrack called this process “the flowing back of parasites” and expressed confidence that AEG would be able to control it:
In April, Jackson fired the accounting firm Cannon & Co., which had worked for him for a year, according to an accountant who worked on his finances. In his corner office high above Century City, Barrack is sanguine about reports of disharmony. “You have the same thousand parasites that start to float back in and take advantage of the situation and that has happened a little at the edges.” But, he added, he had confidence in AEG’s ability to keep Jackson focused. http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/31/entertainment/et-michael-jackson31/3
Life itself has shown that very little depended on Michael in that situation though the very fact that he was fighting is very important.
After firing Tohme little changed except that Tohme had been taken away from the Sony/ATV Music Publishing board and replaced by Frank Dileo. Tohme still stayed in the AEG project and was still named in Michael Jackson’s ‘contract’. Tohme was never called there Michael’s manager, it was never clear for which party he was acting, so his change in status didn’t seem to matter much. AEG was probably even paying him at least until Michael’s death, only this time evidently for his past services, for silence and for staying loyal to them and their project.
Tohme was still Tom Barrack’s friend and was still actively involved in all projects connecting Michael with the Colony Capital. This is why Tohme was so insistent on Michael to be buried in Neverland – he and Tom Barrack were hoping to turn Neverland into a major attraction generating millions of dollars from the stream of grieving Michael Jackson’s fans coming there.
But the worst part of the problem was that even after Michael fired Tohme his AEG partners still did not have any desire to listen to Michael Jackson and pay any attention to his decision. Same as they disregarded Michael’s wishes and controlled his life in every other aspect they simply ignored his dismissal of Tohme. And the horrid illustration of it is found in no other place but Randal Sullivan’s book.
AEG IGNORES MICHAEL’S DECISION
Despite my general attitude to Randal Sullivan’s book this was surely a real-life scene which was evidently described to Sullivan by one of the witnesses of the event. Most probably it was Tohme Tohme himself. This account left me totally speechless:
Tohme would say later that whatever doubts he harbored about his own status were soothed by that visit to the Staples Center.
Randy Phillips introduced him to everyone as “ Dr. Tohme, Michael’s manager,” and placed a bracelet around his wrist that would allow Tohme access to the Staples Center rehearsals any time he wanted to show up.
At one point, Michael waved to Frank Dileo and said, “Come here and give your boss a hug.”
Dileo responded by walking away, and Tohme asked Randy Phillips, “What’s that guy doing here?”
They kept Dileo around, Phillips answered, according to Tohme, “because he makes Michael laugh”.
So this is how AEG Live looked at Frank Dileo …. They took him for a sort of a clown for Michael Jackson… Someone insignificant and not even necessary to reckon with – like an old teddy bear to keep the child happy while serious grown-up people are going about their serious business.
Previously I had some doubts about Frank Dileo’s role in all this ugliness around Michael Jackson, but now this scene has fully reconciled me with him. No, he wasn’t part of it and was probably suffering no less than Michael himself.
AEG’s disdain for Michael’s decisions and disregard for his wishes are simply crashing. Same as the open way Randy Phillips was displaying it. Michael tried to show to people around him that his real manager was Frank Dileo and jokingly asked him to come and give his boss a hug, and the only thing Frank could do in reply was getting up and leaving at some pretext. He probably did it to save Michael from the embarrassment of hearing what Randy Phillips had to say about it. He had just heard Phillips introducing Tohme as Michael’s manager….
What a scene! What a terrible scene telling us more about AEG’s control of Michael’s life than all their lawyers and papers taken together! And what a proof it is of how disrespectful they were towards Michael Jackson, the man through whose mere existence they were making all those millions!
And how unfortunate it is that same as Peter Lopez we cannot ask Frank Dileo either about this and other occurrences in his association with Michael Jackson. Frank Dileo was accidentally given a double doze of anesthesia during an operation, fell into a coma and died too…
Updated March 24
By now we have Paris Jackson’s answers to the written AEG interrogatory and one piece has a direct connection to this post. It was with utter amazement that I found this among Paris Jackson’s answers:
«Between June 23-25, 2009, Michael told Responding Party that Dr.Tohme was back on board because he had helped Michael with a house in Las Vegas.
During this time, Michael also talked to Responding Party about his music, his body temperature and movies after the This Is It Tour.
Michael also told Responding Party that he was scared because he thought: “Randy Phillips and them were out to get me”.
My first impression was that Michael had forgiven Tohme, but later on I realized something different.
Tohme does say in various sources that he saw Michael two days before his death, but previously it looked like some chance meeting during the rehearsals. Now it becomes clear that it was not a chance meeting and the scene described by Tohme in Sullivan’s book has an explanation.
Two or three days before Michael’s death Tohme was taken back on board, but was taken not by Michael, who still publicly referred to Dileo as his manager, but by Randy Phillips.
Randy Phillips slipped a bracelet around Tohme’s wrist to give him unlimited access to the rehearsals again and introduced him to everyone as Michael’s manager, doing it in total defiance of Michael’s wishes.
This way AEG imposed Tohme back on Michael and even flaunted their decision. The formal explanation they probably gave him was that Tohme had rendered Michael some services in Las Vegas (found a house for him there).
Michael’s reaction to it is very telling. He was scared and said to his daughter:
- “Randy Phillips and them were out to get me”.
So even the incredible fact of Tohme being back in the last days of Michael’s life is fitting into the whole picture of his bullying and intimidation once again. By the way it will explain why Tohme was at the hospital and why two weeks after Michael’s death he said that he was still representing him until he was “otherwise informed not to do so”.
Tohme was waiting for the instructions from his real bosses.