The story of MICHAEL JACKSON, TOHME, NEVERLAND and IRRELEVANT QUESTIONS. Part 3
This post was prompted by some discussion in the comments about Neverland – whether it was really saved by Colony Capital or the “saving” was a publicity stunt. As full and proper facts are not open to us we will have to go by the shreds of information we have, trying to connect the dots.
We know that Tohme was instrumental for the Neverland deal as it was him who brought in Tom Barrack of Colony Capital. Depending on the source Tohme is described as Barrack’s “close personal friend”, his former business associate and as someone working for Colony Capital at the moment of the deal.
The Associated Press calls Tohme’s past “murky” so this wide variety of opinion about the man shouldn’t surprise us. We do not even know how to spell his name – Tohme and Thomme as even here there are some variants, so how can we know anything about his past and present?
One article says that Tohme worked with Colony Capital previously and calls him a doctor which was later said to be wrong:
July 5, 2009
More from the Business Mirror and Dr. Tohme:
“In an interview last week Dr. Tohme Tohme, an orthopedic surgeon-turned-businessman who had previously worked with Colony Capital, identified himself as the singer’s manager, spokesman, everything, and spoke about the benefits of dealing with business titans Barrack and Anschutz rather than their ‘sleazy’ predecessors. ‘Michael Jackson is an institution. He needs to be run like an institution,” Tohme said. http://deathby1000papercuts.com/2009/07/michael-jacksons-death-neverland-the-mysterious-dr-tohme-president-of-michael-jackson-productions/
And Roger Friedman wrote another article which says that Tohme was working for Colony Capital at the time of the deal.
Friedman’s own name is not free from controversy, but he had the advantage of at least interviewing Tohme and was therefore privy to first-hand information. His article also details the Estate’s claim against Tohme, the Julien’s auction stopped by Michael, and correctly says that Tohme is no doctor and no ambassador at large though he claims otherwise:
February 17, 2012
Michael Jackson‘s estate has finally filed a lawsuit against Tohme Tohme, who used to call himself “Doctor.” Tohme was Michael Jackson’s penultimate manager–meaning he was replaced just before Jackson’s death by Jackson’s longtime manager and friend, Frank DiLeo. But Tohme, the estate says in a complaint filed by attorney Howard Weitzman, ran amok during his short term between January 2008 and March 2009. It was Tohme, working for Thomas Barrack‘s Colony Capital, who pulled off the sale of Neverland to Colony.
But according to the complaint, Jackson never understood that Tohme was also going to receive a finder’s fee for doing work for his own employer. Jackson had no lawyer representing him in his many signed agreements with Tohme, and so didn’t understand that when Colony came up with $24 million to bail out Neverland, Tohme would get $2.4 million.
Tohme, the complaint further reads, got Jackson to sign an agreement paying him $35,000 a month. He was also to receive 15% of all gross compensation Jackson received for anything he did in the entertainment field. Jackson signed not one but two Power of Attorney documents giving Tohme “extraordinary” powers. He also gave himself a $100,000 per month producers fee for the run of Jackson’s London concert dates–from July 2009 through at least March 2010.
All of this Jackson signed without a lawyer, and despite numerous stories (many written by yours truly) about Tohme’s many assertions about his credentials being false.It was during Tohme’s regime, for example, that the contents of Neverland were emptied and consigned to an auction house in Beverly Hills. The auction didn’t proceed when Jackson finally got a grip, and a lawyer, stopped the auction. Tohme then took back the contents and warehoused them.
When Jackson died, the estate had to negotiate with him to get back the property. Out of luck was Julien’s Auction House, which published a now collectible catalog of everything that had been in Neverland.“Tohme took possession and control of money and property that belonged to Jackson. Tomhe did not return to Jackson and refuses to deliver to the executors all of the property and cash belonging to Jackson that Tohme took possession and control of.”
On a side note, Tohme used to claim he was a doctor from Lebanon. But he could never prove to me that he was a doctor and when I questioned him about it in 2008, he told me wasn’t practicing. He did say he was Ambassador at Large to Senegal, but their Embassies denied it.
Since the page which had this article is no longer found for some reason, I am posting a link to mjjjusticeproject where the article was copied: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/jha5ot
When you look at the way the Neverland deal is presented by the press the first impression is that it was a Godsend of a deal. The foreclosure note on Neverland warning Michael of an imminent public auction in case he did not pay was purchased by Colony Capital in spring 2008 and this was followed by the November 2008 news about a joint venture formed with Michael Jackson and giving him some share in it.
This article explains it:
Michael Jackson gives Neverland to corporation
November 13,2008 By Robert Jablon, Associated Press Writer
The singer filed a grant deed on the ranch Monday that makes the new owner an entity called the Sycamore Valley Ranch Co. LLC, Tom Pearson of the Santa Barbara County clerk-recorder’s office said Wednesday.Sycamore Valley Ranch Co. is a joint venture between Jackson and an affiliate of Colony Capital LLC, according to a person with knowledge of the transaction who was not authorized to speak on the record and requested anonymity.
The person could not say what would become of the 2,500-acre property in the bucolic, oak-studded hills of Santa Barbara County’s wine country, 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles. A call to an attorney for Jackson, L. Londell McMillan, was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Jackson had gone into default on the $24.5 million he owes on the property and had faced foreclosure before Colony Capital bailed him out earlier this year by purchasing his loan.
Pearson said the deed did not indicate who owns Sycamore.A listing on the California secretary of state’s Web site says the company filed with the state in June.
It does not identify its owners, but the company has the same Century City address as Colony Capital LLC.Colony Capital is a Los Angeles-based real estate investment company run by billionaire Tom Barrack. It owns several properties in Las Vegas, including the Las Vegas Hilton.
The property was called Sycamore Valley Ranch before Jackson bought it in 1988 and began turning it into a miniature amusement park with a zoo, Ferris wheel, roller coaster and other rides.At the height of his popularity, the superstar invited thousands of children to play on the grounds.
He renamed the ranch after the mythical land of Peter Pan and set about creating the magical childhood experiences he said his career as a child star had denied him.“It’s like stepping into Oz,” he once said of Neverland.
“Once you come in the gates, the outside world does not exist.”Jackson has struggled to pay his debts since his financial empire began to crumble following his arrest in 2003 on charges that he molested a 13-year-old boy at the ranch. He has not been seen in the Los Olivos area since a jury acquitted him of all charges, and recent aerial photos show the ranch falling into disrepair. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/music/2008-11-13-565952169_x.htm
Who owns the property as a result of the deal was not disclosed, however some details may be deduced by comparing the two key factors. The first key factor was found by blogger Justice4some:
Richard Siklos, editor-in-chief of Fortune Magazine, wrote in October, 2009, that “under the terms of an agreement struck with Jackson after Colony Capital purchased the note on the property for $23.5 million, when Neverland is eventually sold, Colony will recoup its investment in the note plus the accrued interest, its management and upkeep expenses, and around 12% of above that as a success fee. The rest will go to the Estate.”
Essentially, this means that the Michael Jackson Estate will receive a large profit of the sale of Neverland, or the Estate could have the option to buy the property.
It looks like the editor-in-chief of Fortune Magazine explained the deal the way it is customary to make it – someone puts out the fire by bringing in the money, helps to settle the problem and then gets his money back together with the interest and fee, finally withdrawing from the scene.
And the Colony Capital deal is described here in the same customary manner – Tom Barrack puts out the fire by buying the loan, then he and Michael Jackson jointly find the best customer and Tom Barrack gets his money back with all the expenses paid plus his interest and fee for the timely help. The sum remaining from selling the ranch to some third party goes to Michael or the Estate acting on his behalf.
This is a customary scheme and this is probably how the deal was explained to Michael. Well, at least Richard Siklos who conveys to us the impression that he actually saw the documents was under the same impression too.
However two years after the news about Neverland was reported some new details surfaced in the press, and the person who disclosed them was no other but Tom Barrack himself.
He spoke to at least two newspapers about the success of his transaction and in the process disclosed one detail which makes to us all the difference in the world.
This essential detail was a condition Tom Barrack accompanied the deal with. This condition was that he would buy the foreclosure note on Neverland only if he himself became owner of it (the other condition was Michael’s deal with AEG):
Nov 28, 2010
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. http://nymag.com/news/business/69782/index1.html
As if trying to bring home to us the crucial elements of the deal the New York Magazine states these conditions twice on each page of their article:
But in this case, the operating business was a person. 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. http://nymag.com/news/business/69782/index2.html
In addition to this New York article we have another author who wrote about the same – only much earlier, on July 5, 2009.
What is top important here is that the author wrote about that ownership condition after he got familiar with the court documents:
Just who is the mysterious Dr. Tohme Tohme, and what are his ties to Michael Jackson and Neverland?
In the latest interviews Tohme claims he’s just an unpaid adviser and spokesperson for Michael Jackson, but in court records we found a different story, where Tohme claims he’s President of Michael Jackson Productions.
Tohme claimed he set up the original meeting between Barrack, Tohme, and Jackson. One result of the meeting: Barrack wound up saving Neverland from the auction but also gained ownership, with Jackson given some sort of profit sharing agreement. It was Barrack who contacted the owner of AEG, Phillips Anschutz.
http://deathby1000papercuts.com/2009/07/michael-jacksons-death-neverland-the-mysterious-dr-tohme-president-of-michael-jackson-productions/ (unfortunately the link to the article is not working).
What did the condition to pass the ownership from one person to another mean in those circumstances?
It means that the “good guy” was ready to pay the debt for Neverland but only on condition that the property became his. Just imagine an offer like that for your own flat or house and you will realize what kind of a hand-twisting deal it was.
Since this was the essence of Tom Barrack’s deal as he himself described it, it means that when setting the condition for ‘saving’ Neverland he must have given Michael the final price too, and in those circumstances the price could be only minimal – it actually amounted to the sum of the debt.
Another variant is that he could soothe Michael into thinking that the final selling price would be agreed later (by that joint venture of theirs). I don’t even know which variant is worse – imagine that when the time comes for the final agreement you hope to get the market price, but your partner reminds you that you are nobody here and he is the owner anyway…
So according to Tom Barrack’s own words and the court documents quoted above in May 2008 Colony Capital bought the foreclosure note on condition that Michael started working for AEG and Barrack gained ownership of the ranch. In November the same year they finalized the deal with all media rightfully proclaiming Colony Capital owners of Neverland (now Sycamore Valley).
A deal with AEG was evidently a proposal Michael could not refuse as it was coupled with what he expected to be the saving of Neverland, and as to the ownership condition there are reasons to believe that Michael didn’t know of it and it was not disclosed to him in due manner and in due time.
Why do I think so? Because Richard Siklos, editor-in-chief of Fortune Magazine, who actually saw the agreement, described its terms in a customary manner, without ever mentioning any “ownership” condition to it. However in the court documents mentioned by the second article quoted here the ownership condition is already set. Moreover it is also Tom Barrack himself who also speaks about it.
This makes me think that the news of this condition could be broken on Michael much later or introduced into the deal in some stealthy manner. This does not surprise me in the least as the contract with AEG Live is actually following absolutely the same pattern.
Indeed, the style of both deals is absolutely the same – Michael Jackson thinks he is going into one deal and in reality it turns out to be something different.
Michael Jackson thinks he is going into a joint venture with Colony Capital, but instead Neverland goes into Tom Barrack’s ownership. He thinks the document he is signing with AEG Live is a letter of intent only, but by some twist it turns out to be the final contract. He also thinks he has agreed to 10 concerts, but the number grows into 50 instead.
There is a pattern here, guys. And what is especially interesting here is that in all these cases we have to do with one and the same middleman – Tohme Tohme.
Michael actually said it himself that he did not know his deal. He said about it to June Gatlin adding that he spoke to Tohme and Tohme spoke to everyone else. He had no chance to verify and check what the deal was, and had to go by Tohme’s word only.
The same was noted by Jack Wishna who observed Michael and people around him when he was in Las Vegas and said, “Michael did not know what his deals were”. He is surely talking about Tohme here:
“Michael has a lot of people around him that cut deals and sometimes Michael doesn’t even know what those deals are,” he added. “So many people have been around him. At every turn it’s like he’s his worst enemy because of the people that are around him.”
As regards Neverland an important amendment arrived at the last minute before making this post.
Maureen reminded me of the percentage the Estate now has in the Sycamore Valley Company. And according to the Estate’s report it is 87,5%.
To be frank I completely forgot to look up that document and the Estate’s share sounded as good news to me. However the fact that the share was estimated as “one dollar” still kept me from falling into euphoria over it.
In the Estate’s own terms the situation is described as “the liabilities in this asset exceed assets” and this means that the Estate is in debt over its share in the company. Nobody knows how big the sum of the debt is and what terms of the agreement with Colony Capital over it are.
All we know is what the court documents and Tom Barrack himself said about it – that the condition for paying the foreclosure note was giving him the ownership of the ranch (in addition to MJ’s deal with AEG) . And the fact that Michael still retained his share in the joint venture can mean a lot of different things – for example, that the deal was reversed when Tohme was fired. The debt could have arisen as a result of that annulment and could have accrued a lot of interest at that.
This was the first idea that came to my mind to explain the discrepancy, however the reasons for such a situation may be many and unless we see the agreement we can’t be sure of anything.
There is only one thing I am sure of – Tom Barrack didn’t “save” Neverland but acquired great property well below its real cost; and that he forced Michael into a deal with AEG which Michael couldn’t refuse for fear of Neverland going to an auction; and the “ownership” rights might been easily passed to Barrack by some fraud considering Tohme’s modus operandi and Michael never knowing what his deal was.
In short Neverland should be returned to Michael’s family and this is why it is so crucial for Katherine Jackson to win her case against AEG Live.
Reading about Tom Barrack sitting at the foot of the oak tree where Michael wrote his songs is simply unbearable and is one of the most painful scenes I’ve ever read:
Nov 28, 2010
You’ll see why Michael called this place Neverland,” says Tom Barrack, the newest owner of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch. Barrack is a 63-year-old billionaire with a gleaming shaved head, summer-in-Sardinia tan, personally trained muscles, and sockless tasseled loafers. He is sitting on the lawn beside the Tudor-style, panic-room-equipped main house, near a gnarled oak tree with steps winding up to the perch where Jackson wrote Bad http://nymag.com/news/business/69782/
I wish it could return to where it was before:
One of Jackson’s favorite outside spots to relax was up in a large oak tree on the grounds. There were handles installed on the tree to help Jackson climb up the tree, where he would sit and contemplate life. He even wrote lyrics and melodies to his songs while relaxing up in the tree. http://www.examiner.com/article/inside-michael-jackson-s-neverland-ranch-slideshow
OTHER TOHME DEALS
The other business Tohme did for Michael Jackson is best illustrated by the Estate’s lawsuit against Tohme. The full document is found here http://ru.scribd.com/doc/81994850/Michael-Jackson-Tohme-R-Tohme-Suit
I will comment on the Estate’s side of the story only as what the fraudster says can be read now in numerous articles spread all over the Internet. If you want the details you can go to this source from which the summary of the Estate’s suit against Tohme has also been taken: http://www.mjjcommunity.com/forum/threads/121500-MJ-Estate-sues-Tohme-Tohme-Tohme-countersues-Tohme-s-complaint-pg-14).
The summary of the Estate’s suit will have a couple of my additions:
– Tohme arranges a series of negotiations without Michael having independent legal counsel and Michael giving informed consent
– Tohme takes possession of Michael’s money and personal property using his powers of attorney and never returned it to Michael Jackson or the Estate
– Tohme goes unchecked until March 2009 but not later than April 14 when his powers of attorney were terminated
– Tohme gets hired around January 2008 and “gets as he pleased” as the Estate puts it
– Tohme doesn’t have any experience in being a personal manager of an artist
– As personal manager he owed to Michael Jackson the highest duties of care, openness, honesty, loyalty and disclosure. He was required to put Jackson’s interests above his own and disclose all information known to him
– Tohme took control over all of Michael’s personal and professional affairs. He hired and fired and supervised other people that worked for Michael and therefore no one could have objected his actions
– May 2008 Tohme and Michael sign a finder’s agreement for Tohme introducing Michael to Colony Capital.
– Estate says Tohme didn’t tell Michael that he had a pre-existing relationship with Colony Capital
– According to the finder’s fee agreement: Michael was to give Tohme 10% of the loan amount ($2.4M), 10% from the future sale of Neverland and 10% from any future transactions with Colony Capital
– Michael didn’t have an independent lawyer and signed the finder’s fee agreement without fully understanding the deal
– Michael signed the agreement because he trusted Tohme and believed the finder’s fee amount was normal and customary. These amounts were excessive for the services provided – Tohme did nothing else but introduce Jackson to Colony
– Tohme had conflicting roles, working as a finder (motivated by getting a fee) and as Michael’s manager (obliged to vigilantly protect his interests)
To close the matter of the finder’s agreement let me note that the Estate does not say that the second 10% was to be deducted from the future sale of Neverland as the above summary puts it. No, all it says is that Tohme was to receive his 10% twice (!) – from the initial $24,5mln sum paid by Colony Capital (point a) and another 10% from whatever was left to Michael in the sale (point b).
This can mean that points a) and b) come simultaneously which is perfectly in line with my conclusion that there was no talk about any future sale of Neverland (to some third party). No, all of it was decided then and there, when the foreclosure note was bought and a condition for passing the ownership to Colony was set.
– Michael signed the Neverland/Colony Capital agreement without having counsel independent from Tohme and not subject to Tohme’s control and authority.
– The terms of the deal were disproportionally favorable to Colony Capital and inferior to Jackson
– As Tohme had ties and interest in regards to Colony Capital, he didn’t look for better and more favorable financing options for Neverland. The Estate is informed and believes that other alternatives were available to Jackson and he suffered substantial harm as a result.
– July 2008 Tohme gets Michael to sign a “Services agreement”.
– Again MJ Estate says Michael signed because he trusted Tohme, didn’t have an independent counsel and thought it was customary.
– According to this agreement Tohme was to be paid $35,000 + expenses per month even though Michael earned nothing.
– Tohme was also to receive 15% of all gross compensations received by Michael for his services in the entertainment industry including live performances, merchandising, electronic arts, recorded and live telecasts, motion pictures, animation projects.
The above point has a direct bearing on the deal with AEG Live. If Michael, for example, was to receive a million for an AEG concert, Tohme set for himself $150,000 out of Michael’s earnings. This, as the Estate says, by far exceeds normal and customary terms for personal managers of artists.
In my opinion this fee, set by Tohme on top of everything else, is a complete outrage. I wonder very much indeed how Tohme managed to obtain Michael’s signature under these terms. What did he do to him to make him sign?
– August 2008 Tohme gets Michael to sign two Power of Attorney (POA) which gave extraordinary powers to Tohme that are “wildly beyond what was customary” as the Estate puts it
– Also Tohme gets Michael to sign an Indemnity Agreement which was again too broad.
– Again the same claims of Michael didn’t have an independent counsel, trusted Tohme, signed them without fully understanding them.
– Tohme made substantial gifts of Michael’s property without having a right to do so. In November 2008 he gifted Michael’s art to Brett Livingstone-strong and signed off Michael’s copyrights in those drawings. The POA’s don’t give Tohme the power to gift anything and transfer Michael’s copyrights to a third party.
-Tohme negotiated TII concert deal with AEG
– Tohme was supposed to get $100,000 a month as a producer fee from TII concerts. AEG would have pay this amount but then would get it back from Michael as part of production expenses
– Again the same claims about Michael signing this agreement.
It seems that the Estate chose to regard the agreement with AEG as valid. They are lawyers of course and know better, but a general observation I need to make here is that we are facing a choice here – if we consider the agreement fraudulent and void, this will nullify everything including the money Michael Jackson was entitled to. However if we regard the agreement as valid its terms including AEG’s financial obligations to Michael will remain.
– Using his powers Tohme took possession of substantial amounts of money (in the millions) and tangible personal and other property of Michael
– Tohme commingled Michael’s funds with his own and used Michael’s money for his expenses, travel, entertainment and purchase of property for himself
– Tohme refused to provide accounting for Michael’s money and property he handled
– The Estate says they believe Tohme is in possession of property belonging to Michael (and the Estate) and took, concealed and disposed of some of it. In accordance with the law Tohme is to pay twice the value of such property
– Estate says Tohme was fired March 2009 and Michael revoked his POA’s in April 2009 but didn’t return Michael’s property
– After Michael’s death Tohme requested significant funds from MJ Estate but refused to return the property in his possession to MJ Estate.
– Tohme didn’t return books and records over the property he handled and refuses to do so.
It seems that Tohme was giving away Michael’s property to the left and to the right. Besides misappropriating some of it for himself he also gave away the collection of Michael Jackson’s own art to artist Brett Livingston Strong which according to some estimation costs now no less than $900mln. Tohme made a gift of it to Livingston and Livingston was about to resell it to an unknown international investor for $87,7mln.
The Estate is battling to reverse the deal on the grounds that Tohme had no right to make a gift of Michael’s artwork to anyone. Especially if it costs almost a billion now.
Michael Jackson’s lawyers battling to save his $900 million secret art collection
7 Jul 2011 // by: Music-News.com Newsdesk
Michael Jackson’s lawyers are battling to save his $900 million secret art collection.
The late ‘Thriller’ star’s ‘rare intact major collection’ has just been discovered, but rather than securing the financial future of his three children – Prince, 13, Paris, 12, and Blanket, eight – lawyers for the star are battling to reverse its $87.7 million sale to an undisclosed international businessman.
Appraiser Eric Finzi told Star magazine the 182-piece collection, which has never publicly been seen, has ‘an invaluable pedigree for future sales in the international art market’.
He added: “Michael’s mystique in life combined with this exposure of his wonderful fine art creations following his tragic death will escalate the value of these works and the popularity of his artistic vision worldwide. I do not think we have begun to see the true value of this fine art yet.”
The collection is made up of drawings, sketches and sculptures made by the ‘Beat It’ singer over a number of years while being taught by an Australian artist and friend, Brett Livingston Strong.
Among the artworks are sketches of Martin Luther King, President Abraham Lincoln and President George Washington, said to be worth in all, more than $8.1 million, sketches of Jackson’s own feet doing his signature dance move the Moonwalk and recreations of the Statue of David and Dying Slave, the masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo.
Before Michael died in August 2009 his estate was in financial trouble, yet a letter sent to Brett by Dr. Tohme Tohme – Jackson’s last business manager and spokesperson – paved the way for the sale, transferring over the collection of artwork free of charge “to keep, sell, copy, exhibit and to use in whatever way you wish’.
Brett and his advisors are thought to have orchestrated the deal to sell off the artwork recently.
Lawyers are now questioning the validity of the letter and trying to reverse the sale.
The letter transferring the works to Brett reads: “Michael wants you to know he is truly grateful for the loyalty you have shown him over the years, and he views this as a small token of appreciation for your continued friendship and artistic partnership.” http://www.music-news.com/shownews.asp?nItemID=42472
Isn’t it strange that though Michael’s finances were supposed to be in much trouble Tohme took it upon himself to give away free Michael’s precious possessions – and with no visible authorization from Michael too, except the letter Tohme himself wrote to accompany the gift?
The Estate is right – no matter what extraordinary powers someone gets under a power of attorney, it absolutely does not allow him to present to others the property he doesn’t own. Otherwise whenever you make such a power of attorney you risk to lose even the chair you are sitting on now. Law sets certain limits to avoid things like that.
THEY MADE HIM LOOK BROKE
While Tohme was squandering Michael’s artwork Tom Barrack was explaining to Michael that his financial situation was that of “a funeral”, this way making him more susceptible and agreeable to their plans.
AEG Live and the press were also notified of the catastrophic state of Michael’s affairs. Randy Phillips had no direct access to Michael’s papers while Tom Barrack did – before paying the foreclosure note he communicated with Fortress holding Michael’s loan and got his team to “crunch the numbers”. The people who looked into Michael’s finances were evidently the same accountants whom Michael hired in the spring of 2008 after they were introduced into the picture by Tom Barrack. These were also the people whom Michael dismissed a year later together with Tohme.
There is absolutely no way for us to know whether the numbers they left to Michael after they were fired were not aggravated by them while they were still at it. The Estate for example is of the opinion that Tohme had misappropriated some of Michael’s property and up till now did not receive any records from him.
The article written in November 2010 explains that Tom Barrack described to Michael his finances in so sombre a way that poor Michael had to struggle with it for three days before he finally agreed to go to work for AEG:
“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.’ ” http://nymag.com/news/business/69782/index2.html
Even from the articles available to us we see that Barrack indeed tried to paint Michael’s circumstances in the darkest colors possible. Thus he implied to the press that Michael’s living conditions were dismal and from the way he described it one might think that Michael had to live in a dingy hole:
“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. http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/31/entertainment/et-michael-jackson31
Another article alleged that Barrack grudgingly agreed to meet Jackson as he resented the idea of spending half an hour with him in some “weird” house of his:
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.”
After all these descriptions we were naturally curious to see how those houses looked. On the left you will see the house rented for Michael by Jack Wishna (recently it was sold for $3,1 mln.). In this house Michael lived from December 2006 when he arrived from Ireland until early 2008, when he moved into a more modest Mexican-style hacienda.
In Hacienda Palomino Michael spent the remaining months of 2008 before he moved to Los Angeles sometime in August 2008. The owners of the Hacienda arranged a tour of their house on the second anniversary of Michael’s death and this is how we got some pictures of it.
The house is not as grand as the first one, but is still hardly reminiscent of the hole Tom Barrack was trying to portray. I was especially amused by Barrack’s statement that there was “not a blade of grass” there. True, there was hardly any grass there as it was a garden full of cactuses and palms and there are tiles and stones all around the house because it is the style of that property, you know.
The media will naturally say that Michael was living an opulent style which he could not afford. This may be partially true as Michael himself did not know the state of his finances. But the point I am trying to make is that Tom Barrack did try to portray Michael’s affairs in the light worse than it really was. I myself had so terrible an impression of the living conditions in which Michael allegedly lived that didn’t even want to have a look until I was forced to do so after some discussion in the comments.
Michael’s situation was far from good, that’s true. But even the success of the Estate after his death shows that with proper management it could have been corrected. Even the Cirque du Soleil project offered by Jack Wishna could have worked wonders for Michael at the time, not to mention the fact that in the very worst case even the catalog could be discarded if it had to be done to sanitize the situation. In short some opportunities were still open to Michael and in their suit against Tohme the Estate also speaks about it.
Actually the fact that Michael’s situation was painted worse than it really was, was confirmed by Randy Phillips himself.
On the one hand he dutifully repeated what Tohme told him and used it to get Michael on the hook:
Randy Phillips, AEG chief executive, said: “I got a call from Dr. Tohme, who said Michael was in bad financial straits”
But on the other hand he also said something different. To the Daily Telegraph for example he said that Michael’s finances were actually not that dire – “they were making out his finances much more dire than they really were”. It was cash that he needed most.
What made Randy Phillips so outspoken to the press I don’t know – probably the shrill of seeing Michael selling a million tickets within some seconds. The article is dated exactly that period:
14 Mar 2009
“We finally made Mohammed come to the mountain of the O2,” Phillips grins. Jackson refused twice, but several months ago, the idea arose as the superstar was putting together a restructuring plan for his finances. Not hat we should believe rumours that Jackson is struggling, after spending a fortune on security and lawyers after his famous child abuse trial – which ended with his acquittal.
“They make out Michael’s finances are much more dire than they are,” Phillips assures me. But he needed the cash, right? “I asked him straight off: why say yes to the tour now? Was it the money? He said: you know what, my kids are old enough now.” Jackson agreed to do 10 dates for AEG, before relenting to 40 more. The star “worships” London, but plans to stay in a country house where his children can play. If any Daily Telegraph readers have a plush rural pad for rent, Phillips wants to know.
So this is what Randy Phillips thought of Michael’s situation:
· “They make out Michael’s finances are much more dire than they are”.
The above is indeed a precious observation on the part of Randy Phillips especially if you compare it with some emails the AEG people exchanged between themselves on the matter of Michael’s finances. The emails said:
Pressed by another promoter about Jackson’s ability to deliver, Phillips shot back in an email, “He has to or financial disaster awaits.”
“We are holding all the risk,” Gongaware wrote to Phillips. “We let Mikey know just what this will cost him in terms of him making money…
“He is locked. He has no choice … he signed a contract,” Gongaware wrote.
But look here. Irrespective of the real condition of Michael’s finances, the two different statements by Randy Phillips about “the imminent financial disaster” and the situation being not that dire mean that he was expressing two opposite ideas. How can that be? Does it mean that he was lying at least on one of these occasions?
My opinion is that both times Randy Phillips was telling the truth, only he was talking about two different situations. The first time he was talking about Michael’s finances in general, and in their emails he and other AEG officials talked of the situation they themselves created for Michael.
Indeed, the terms of their contract were so unfavorable to Michael that after signing their papers he became sort of their hostage. Now he could be really threatened by an imminent disaster in case he tried to back out of the deal and be easily blackmailed into any decision they wanted him to take. I myself was telling you in numerous posts about their contract that in case there was a cancellation Michael would have been stripped naked by his AEG partners.
There is one more point we need to make as regards those emails and all those “risks” AEG allegedly faced as well as their worries about Michael non-performing.
First, there were no risks for AEG as the money they invested in Michael was secured by all his possessions according to the Promissory Note he signed, so all the risk was on Michael’s side only.
And second, there was no need to worry about Michael not keeping his word. There was no way he would go back on it and draw out of his agreement with AEG Live. He had a much bigger incentive for performing than any of these people could ever imagine – he wanted to do those ten concerts for his children and knowing how much he valued everything connected with them we will understand that with the children being his main driving force no power on earth could stop him from performing – except death of course.
WHY HE WANTED THOSE CONCERTS
Randy Phillips always stressed that the strongest motive for Michael to agree to the London tour was his desire to show his art to his children. This statement was repeated so often and by so many people besides Phillips that I beging thinking that this was indeed Michael’s main driving force. Money was always of secondary importance to him while the children were his utmost value, and the first and only priority in life.
Almost every person who came into contact with Michael said that he wanted those concerts primarily for his children (in addition to his fans):
Those who know Jackson say his real motivation is to show his children what he is capable of.
“He’s doing it mostly for his fans,” Jackson’s former spokesman Dr. Tohme Tohme tells RS. “And he’s doing it for his children and the children of the world.”
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.
This time, however, Jackson was receptive. He needed the money, and he has a second, more personal reason: His children — sons Prince Michael, 7, and Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., 12, and daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11 — have never seen him perform live.
“They are old enough to appreciate and understand what I do, and I am still young enough to do it,” Phillips quoted Jackson as saying.
Even our old friend Stacy Brown is saying the same:
Michael had reportedly planned for 12-year-old Prince Michael to sing and dance with him, his friend and biographer Stacy Brown has claimed.
According to the writer, the 50-year-old singer “didn’t really want to do any of the shows” but was spurred on by his three children, Prince Michael, Paris, 11, and seven-year-old Prince Michael II.
He added: “Michael really wanted his children to see him perform.”
Besides Stacy Brown the article also cites Michael’s photographer who said that Michael was so focused on the shows and so hopeful for his family and fans to see them that he reminded him of an “expectant father pacing up and down the stage”:
Kevin Mazur, a photographer who was taking pictures of Michael rehearsing and spoke to the singer during his practice sessions [ ] said the singer was shouting: “This is me. The true me. I feel so alive. I feel as though I want to perform forever.
“The only thing missing is my fans, my people, my family – and they will come. I know they will. I’m so happy. Can you feel it? Can you feel it?” Kevin added: “It was incredible. It was a joy to behold. You could tell Michael was so excited.
“He was like an expectant father pacing up and down the stage. He was just so focused. I have never seen him so happy.”
But most of it is coming from Kenny Ortega. He says that Michael’s children knew of his performances but were curious to see them live. Michael wanted to show to his children what he had been doing all his life and share this experience with them. He wanted the children to meet his fans and turn the concerts into the final grand bow:
“For the last couple of years, we had been talking about finding the right project. That it had to have meaning, real purpose behind it for him to want to do something. And when he called me, he said, ‘This is it.’ That’s where the title came from,” he says. “He wanted this so much for so many reasons. For his children, who are now old enough and really, you know, curious [about his performances]”
“Michael was intending to go out there with his children and see the whole rest of the world, share that experience with them, meet the fans, take one more grand bow, and then he wanted to pull the plug on his live performing because he said, ‘I don’t want to be out there doing it when I can’t do it with the integrity that I’m known for. However, let’s make movies and great albums and develop projects together.’ So he was excited about so much. He had so much more in him still.” http://movies.about.com/od/michaeljacksonthisisit/a/kenny-ortega_2.htm
Kenny Ortega also paints a much bigger picture of Michael’s motives for those concerts which ranged from involving his children in life creatively to turning his shows a “call to arms” as Michael was going to say to the world, “Come on world, take responsibility”:
As the director explained, for MJ, those powerful reasons numbered three: his family, his fans and his hope for — and yes, his love of — the future of humanity. “He wanted to do it because he wanted to involve his children in his life creatively,” he said. “He wanted them to be able to experience what it was, that he loved his whole life, now that they were curious, old enough to be able to appreciate it, and he was still young enough to do it.”
Additionally, Jackson wanted to reward his loyal fanbase with a live show — not just featuring the King of Pop, but one he wanted to be bigger and badder than any other before it. “The fans meant everything to Michael,” Ortega told us. “They were his food, his fuel, his life source, his energy, and he was energized by them and he appreciated their loyalty more than I can ever say. This film is for the fans.”
But in the end, love was really the driving force behind the concerts. “Most importantly, Michael wanted to do this because he wanted this to be a call to arms,” Ortega said. “This is it. Come on world, take responsibility. We need to love each other more, put more love back into the world. We need to take care of the planet or we’re not going to have one for future generations.”
Money is not even mentioned by any of these people. And Michael himself never mentioned money in connection with those concerts either. He was recorded by Murray when falling asleep and in moments like that people betray their innermost desires, and I never cease to be amazed that at a moment like that Michael spoke of spending money instead of acquiring it. And that he dreamed of spending it not on his own needs, but on a children’s hospital built for the little angels he cared for. And instead of money he spoke of God:
Jackson: Elvis didn’t do it. Beatles didn’t do it. We have to be phenomenal. When people leave this show, when people leave my show, I am them to say, “I’ve never seen nothing like this in my life. Go. Go. I’ve never seen nothing like this. Go. It’s amazing. He’s the greatest entertainer in the world.” I’m taking that money, a million children, children’s hospital, the biggest in the world, Michael Jackson’s Children’s Hospital. Gonna have a movie theater, game room. Children are depressed. The –in those hospitals, no game room, no movie theater. They’re sick because they’re depressed. Their mind is depressing them. I want to give them that. I care about them, them angels. God wants me to do it. God wants me to do it. I’m gonna do it, Conrad.
Murray: I know you would.
Jackson: Don’t have enough hope, no more hope. That’s the next generation that’s gonna save out planet, starting with-we’ll talk about it. United States, Europe, Prague, my babies. They walk around with no mother. They drop them off, they leave- a psychological degradation of that. They reach out to me- please take me with you.
Jackson: I’m gonna do that for them. That will be remembered more than my performances. My performances will be up there helping my children and always be my dream. I love them. I love them, because I didn’t have a childhood. I had no childhood. I feel their pain. I feel their hurt. I can deal with it. “Heal the World,” “We are the World,” “Will You be There,” “The Lost Children.” These are the songs I’ve written because I hurt, you know, I hurt.
Murray: You okay?
Jackson: I am asleep.
You will probably agree with me that with a driving force like Michael’s children he would have done any number of concerts there were to do. The only condition required for it was the right schedule and enough time for rest and sleep between the concerts. As to the rest of it Michael was so highly motivated for those shows that he would have never cancelled them at a mere whim. He rarely did it before without a proper rescheduling and he was absolutely not going to do it now.
This makes all those ‘worries’ about the concerts expressed by the AEG people totally unjustified. If Michael did not attend some rehearsals it was most probably because he either practiced at home or needed to save his energy. He also expected his partners to do their part of the deal – their business was to make the show ready and his business was to put the final touch to it.
In this connection Randy Phillips often recalled Michael saying,
- “You build the house and I come, put in the front door and paint it”.
THE SHOWS WERE NOT READY
However by June 25th when Michael Jackson died the shows were far from ready. I hope there will be a time to talk about this fact in more detail and at the moment I will only quote Kenny Ortega who in his conversation with Oprah Winfrey suddenly blurted out that truth. And the truth is that on June 25th “they were about three weeks from being ready”:
Now, the director and choreographer is releasing his most heartbreaking—and inspiring—project yet in honor of Michael Jackson, his friend of 25 years. Michael Jackson’s This Is It is an unguarded look at the King of Pop’s final days as he prepared for a series of comeback concerts in London. “We were about eight days away from leaving to London to do our final technical and dress rehearsals,” Kenny says. “We were about three weeks from being ready.”
Three weeks is 21 days as everyone knows, but if you add 5 or 6 days remaining in June and 12 days in July (the 13th was Sunday and the day of the premiere) it will make 17-18 days only. If you further deduct from this number the days off and the time needed for moving the show to London you will be amazed at how little time they actually had.
Michael Jackson was supposed to leave for London on July 4th, and on the 8th he was to have his first London rehearsal, and this left to him and the others only 9 working days excluding Saturdays and Sunday. If you add Saturdays to it this will be all they had for finishing up the show.
Please note that Michael needed a comfortable schedule for himself which could allow him to reach the shows in his peak form, save his energy and voice, and would not exhaust him before the tour started at all – however the too little time left was not giving him any chance to relax.
Whether AEG was pressuring him on purpose or due to their planning mistakes does not really matter. Even if the pressure was a forced measure it means that their production process was poorly arranged and all the mistakes made by them had to be compensated at the expense of Michael Jackson and the tremendous burden of overwork placed on his shoulders.
An anonymous witness to those events shared his view of the show on the eve of their move to London and said that nothing was actually ready for it.
We don’t doubt the veracity of his words as this is one of those rare cases when no confirmation is even needed. We have seen “This is it” documentary with our own eyes and it illustrated everything this person said – the costumes were indeed not ready and when they were finally made and decorated with thousands of Swarovsky crystals they were good for a museum only as Michael would have been unable to dance under their weight anyway.
The 3-D video was not yet made, the robot equipment was not ready and even in the final documentary some scenes were done by computer simulation only. In short what this witness to the events said is perfectly coinciding with our own impression of it.
This is what the eye-witness said:
“According to this person, there was absolutely no way the concert was going to be ready for opening night on July 13th, and everyone knew it.
He asked me the following “when you saw the movie, you do realize right that they had to show the best scenes, the best performances, right?” I said “yes, of course” to which he replied “so do you realize that what you have seen, most of it came from June 24th, 23rd and 22nd ? Based on what you saw, did it feel as if everything was going to be ready in 2 weeks ?” He said that Michael did not have his clothes ready, and that there was “pathetic” @#$%$ing around from different stylists that were trying to come up with ideas. But nothing was ready, no clothes, not even for the dancers. Michael wanted Michael Bush, but Travis Payne brought in that Zaldy guy, and AEG was behind Zaldy, rather than Michael Bush.
The opening number for the concert was only done on the computer, just like we saw in the movie. It was never rehearsed, and the robot that Michael would have come out from was not ever ready. Also the closing of the show was just a concept.
He also confirmed that they never had a full rehearsal. In other words, they never practiced the whole concert, it would always be a few songs on several days, but it was never put all together, therefore they were also very concerned that once everything was gonna put together, it would take much longer that the 2 hours originally planned. This was going to be a huge problem for AEG and the O2 arena, because of an agreement they had with time. Also, Michael did not want to have long shows, for obvious reasons.
Also, they never rehearsed with implementing the videos for Smooth, Thriller and Earth as we saw in the movie, those were edited in the movie, but they never rehearsed using them, and it was still unclear how they would be used with the songs, especially Smooth Criminal.”
And this was the state of affairs at the very end of June, some two working weeks before the shows? They still needed time for taking the show across the ocean, setting up the equipment there, finishing up the costumes and rehearing some previously unrehearsed songs, running the full show from beginning to end and arranging at least one dress rehearsal prior to the premiere – and for all this they had some 9-12 working days?
And if all this leaves us with a terribly disquieting feeling, how much more worried and apprehensive must have been Michael Jackson seeing all that? No wonder that he was nervous and even said to his fans as Talitha remembers:
MJ: I put everything I have into the shows. I work so hard. But I’m only one person. There is only so much I can do. (sounding emotional)
Michael was urging his partners, “Build the house and I’ll come and paint the front door”. He was asking them to do what was expected of them so that he could make his own input and “paint the front door”. However the house was far from ready and that’s the main point of it.
When trying to use some old articles stored on my computer in connection with this story I encountered a worrisome phenomenon.
First of all many of the articles listing Tohme’s feats against Jackson have suddenly disappeared. The Forbes and the deathby1000papercuts articles are no longer there and many others are also missing. Practically everything that can give us some information about the details of Tohme’s business with Michael is missing now.
Secondly, a big number of glowing reports about Dr. Tohme appeared instead. Over there he is painted a kind of a savior of Michael Jackson and his work for him is praised in a totally flagrant manner.
And thirdly, when I once again watched Randy Phillips’ testimony at Conrad Murray’s trial it struck me very much how unnaturaly Prosecutor Walgren and the Judge avoided almost all questions concerning Tohme.
Chernoff asked questions whether Phillips knew Tohme, had met him before or recognized him. But not a single of these questions was allowed by Walgren and the judge. The vehemence of their objection to these seemingly innocent questions was simply overwhelming and made me think that Phillips and Tohme could know each other before and this for some reason must have a certain importance for the case.
Actually there were some rumors on the Internet saying that Tohme and Phillips were relatives and that Tohme used to be married to Phillips’s sister. (Note: Later I was told that this was not the case).
However even if this was not true these two people still had a perfect understanding for each other. It was Phillips and Tohme who set 50 shows for Michael. And the minimal spacing between the shows was also their doing – Phillips himself said that he was working on the dates together with Tohme. And consequently it was the two of them who were responsible for the crazy schedule with hardly any days off between the shows set by them for the 50 year old Jackson.
Celebrity Access said about it:
AEG’s Randy Phillips told CelebrityAccesss that they have been working with Dr. Tohme Tohme in connection with all of Michael Jackson’s dates.
Here is the way Chernoff examined Randy Phillips on day 17 of the trial, September 25, 2011 and how he was rebuffed at the first attempt to find whether Randy Phillips knew Tohme before.
Almost all questions concerning Colony Capital were blocked too. See Phillips’ cross-examination beginning with 6:30:
Chernoff: Is Colony Capital an entertainment company?
Phillips: Not to my knowledge.
C: And entertainment agency?
C: What kind of a company is it?
P: My knowledge of it is that it is that they are like a private equity fund.
C: And the owner, the principal of that company is Tom Barrack?
P: Right. I think there are numerous partners.
C: Who did Tom Barrack contact with? You directly?
P: No, he actually contacted Phil Anschutz.
C: Who is Phil Anschutz?
P: He is the chairman of AEG and is someone I report to.
C: He is the Anschutz Entertainment Group?
P: Yes, he is.
C: And Tom Barrack knew Phil Anschutz to your knowledge?
P: I believe so.
C: And you were contacted by Phil Anschutz?
C: Were you familiar with the involvement Tom Barrack had with Michael Jackson?
Walgren: Objection. Relevance.
C: When Phil Anschutz called you what instructions did he give you?
Walgren: Objection. Relevance.
Judge: I will sustain the objection. I think we can go to the next step. Thank you.
C: After the conversation, after the boss called you, what did you do?
P: I set up an appointment for me to go and meet with Mr. Barrack and his partner Richard Nannula at Colony Capital. [the spelling of the name is the way I hear it]
C: And this was where?
P: At Century City. Century City, California, Los Angeles.
C: You made up a phone call and set up a meeting.
P: That’s correct.
C: How soon did you meet with Tom Barrack and his partners?
P: I believe it was the next day or the day after next to the best of my recollection.
C: All right. And then what happened?
P: […] and I had a meeting with them. Tom Barrack [..] I think it was Richard Nannula who is the partner at Colony Capital who pretty much led the meeting and who explained to me that Colony Capital had purchased the note on Neverland, Michael’s ranch in the Santa Barbara County and purchased the note on his ranch from the company called Fortress.
C: All right. And what does it have to do with the concerts?
Walgren: Objection. Relevance.
C: Was there a conversation about a concert during this meeting? Or concert tour? A series?
P: When Richard Nannula…
Judge: Will you just answer this specific question?
C: Who had that conversation?
P: Me, Richard Nannula and Tom Barrack.
C: After this discussion of the concert what did you do next?
P: They set up a meeting for me with a gentleman named Dr. Tohme who was presented to me as Michael Jackson’s manager at that time.
C: Dr. Tohme?
C: And the meeting was already set up?
P: It was set up during that meeting at Colony.
C: And where was this meeting held?
P: At the Bel Air Hotel.
C: And when was this meeting held?
P: I am not sure. I would be the same day or the next day.. I believe it was the same week that I met the Colony Capital.
C: You did say you had a meeting at Colony Capital in August 2008?
C: That would be August you had this meeting?
P: That is correct.
C: And it was at the Bel Air Hotel?
C: The next day you went to the Bel Air Hotel to meet with Dr. Tohme? Had you ever met Dr. Tohme?
Walgren: Objection. Relevance.
C: Did you know Dr. Tohme?
Walgren: Objection. Relevance.
Judge: Sustained. Let’s get to the next step. Thank you.
C: Did you recognize Dr. Tohme?
Walgren: Objection. Relevance.
Judge: Just a moment. The objection is sustained. There was a meeting. The next question.
C: Can you tell us where in the Bel Air Hotel the meeting was?
Walgren: Objection. Relevance.
C: We can agree that somewhere within the confines of the Bel Air Hotel you met with Dr. Tohme, right?
P: Just to clarify your question. I am not sure it was the next day.
C: But you did meet with Dr. Tohme?
P: That is correct.
C: Who else was at the meeting?
P. Just Dr. Tohme.
C: And what was the discussion about?
P. That Michael Jackson ..
Walgren: Objection. Does it have to do with the proposed concert tour?
Judge: Does it have to do with the proposed concert tour?
P: Yes. .. that Michael Jackson wanted to restart his career…
All I can say on the above is that if the civil trial against AEG Live goes along the same lines, I am afraid we cannot expect much justice for Michael Jackson and his family. The questions relevant for the family (and Michael’s supporters) may be considered irrelevant by them while they are perfectly relevant for us and for the truth too.
Well, we’ll see how justice works when there are so many billionaires around and when some of the key players are tied to each other by common secrets cementing their relationship.
JUSTICE FOR MICHAEL
Some time ago the Internet had an article with an interesting title “Can Michael Jackson get justice in a town owned by AEG?” However following the already mentioned tendency of disappearance of some articles this one also disappeared and is no longer available though I clearly remember reading it and even in several sources too.
Instead a new article appeared – it is called “AEG’s chief is a force in L.A” and is about Tim Leiweke, the President and CEO of AEG. Its three pages are fully dedicated to all the good AEG is doing for the city but a couple of paragraphs insert a drop of criticism and try to show how unbiased the paper is towards this huge LA force:
Those who praise him see Leiweke as an exemplar of what Los Angeles has long lacked — a smart, savvy player who can link arms with financial backers, politicians and unionized workers with equal gusto. In an era when the city can do little development on its own, he and AEG have helped fill a major civic void, doing what many would consider city-building on mostly private land.
…To critics, however, Leiweke is a classic example of an influence peddler who curries favor with lawmakers through huge financial donations and gets, in turn, handouts in the form of tax breaks and a rubber stamp on his vision. The company received approximately $246 million in tax breaks on the L.A. Live project alone — plus a grant of $5 million from redevelopment funds.
“There is a feeling that things are out of balance in the attention the city is paying to that area, to downtown in general and in particular to that area around Staples [Center] and L.A. Live,” said Dennis Hathaway, of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, which has tangled repeatedly with AEG. “And there’s a perception that AEG has kind of become the tail that is wagging the dog of the city.”
With a force like it is hard to expect anything good for Katherine Jackson and her lawsuit, especially since the crucial points have already been thrown away and are not going to be discussed. Therefore we are most probably in for a new barrage of “irrelevant” questions asked and never answered. And in the place of the Jacksons’ lawyers I wouldn’t be that confident of the result of the case no matter how solid it looks to them.
Well, we’ll see how the justice works. The world will be watching.