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THE FINAL RECKONING-5: Michael Jackson and Myung Ho Lee

August 16, 2021

What do we know about Myung Ho Lee?

We think we know more than enough as the media have rubbed it in that 1) Myung Ho Lee was a Korean advisor to Michael Jackson who in 1998 arranged for him a $140mln loan from Bank of America 2) the millions were gone within a year due to MJ’s “lavish lifestyle”, so the loan had to be increased to $200mln and this was soon gone too, and that 3) Michael allegedly participated in voodoo rituals and took a blood bath in order to curse the enemies on his list headed by David Geffen according to this advisor (the point about Geffen as the top enemy I readily believe).

Actually there was much more from Myung Ho Lee but the above was the main story.

The lead vocal in the media chorus propagating all of it belongs to Maureen Orth of Vanity Fair who savored every detail of this narrative in three of her articles, painting Michael Jackson in the ugliest light possible, unimaginable even for Diane Dimond.

If you brush aside the absurdity of a bath of animal blood allegedly taken by the nature-loving and God-fearing Jackson and dig a little deeper, you will realize that the financial side of the story is no less weird than the blood bath, because there is a huge discrepancy between what they tell us about Michael Jackson’s spending and his actual expenses.

The thing is that even if Michael’s personal expenditure was $8 mln annually (not monthly as the media lied to you) it was simply impossible for him to spend all that money just within a year.

For proof of Michael Jackson’s real spending see the memorandum on his financial situation made by Transitional Investors LLC on March 20, 2005 for their own investment committee with regard to their plans to refinance Michael’s loans.

The memorandum shows that in the year 2005 with the exception of trial expenses and the debt service, Michael spent $660,000 a month on his personal needs, $700,000 on running his business (obviously including recording expenses, fees to his lawyers and advisors, etc.) and $370,000 on the Neverland ranch. All in all it came to $20 mln a year, which was of course much more than he earned at that time but still not too cosmic for a person of his stature and certainly not as “outrageous” as the media claimed it.

Here is an excerpt from the memorandum:

The media tried to spin the numbers but if you ignore their buzzing you will see that the figures don’t add up, and this means that the bulk of the money was spent not on Michael’s personal needs but on something different and the media is muting the key element – where Michael’s money really went to.

The NY Post provided some figures from Myung Ho Lee’s lawsuit but they don’t explain anything if you start calculating:

July 27, 2002 

Lee alleges that in 1998 he helped Jackson borrow $140 million from Bank of America/NationsBank. The loan was made against the value of the $272 million Beatles song catalog Jackson owns.

By the next year, Jackson had blown through the money, Friedman reports. That was big trouble because he had a divorce settlement to pay. Lee arranged another $30 million loan, which Jackson allegedly blew through in a year.

In October 2000, Jackson needed even more money and Lee was able to get yet another $30 million, bringing the total Jackson owed to $200 million.

At the same time, Jackson lived a lavish lifestyle, according to budget figures for the months of October, November and December 2000, which were provided in the suit.

Michael Jackson’s outrageous spending habits and loan debt have left him in financial peril, according to a suit brought by his former business manager, Myung Ho Lee. Here’s a look at where his money went:

* $140 million loan to purchase Beatles catalog, which required he put up his $272 million share of Sony

* $30 million line of credit for divorce settlement

* $60 million loan with provision to use half to pay off credit line

* $12 million owed to Lee in unpaid bills

* $1.5 million paid to ex-wife Deborah Rowe

* $507,443 owed to litigation firms

* $260,000 for music lawyer, including $47,000 in reimbursable expenses

* $250,000 per month to run Neverland

* $340,000 payment to Neverland Rides

* $170,000 payment to Neverland Operations

* $214,000 for limo rentals

* $200,000 running bill for gadgets and stereo equipment from a Sony outlet

* $170,000 settlement for missed concerts following Princess Diana’s death

* $78,451 owed to PR firms

* $25,000 for dermatologist

* $20,000 outstanding doctor bill

* $10,000 pharmacy bill

https://nypost.com/2002/07/27/king-of-debt-suit-jacko-owes-200m/

Even a brief glance at the above shows that the loans are in millions while the expenses are in thousands.

But mesmerized by the insistent media hammering about MJ’s “lavish lifestyle” the public failed to notice the gap between the two, and never asked on what projects those millions were squandered and who is responsible for it.

Of course it was impossible for the media and public to really know as people usually don’t disclose the details of their financial deals unless they are wildly successful, but Myung Ho Lee as Michael’s chief financial and investment advisor did know, however even in his lawsuit he kept mum about those failures and his own role in swindling Michael’s money.

The point that also attracts attention is that according to Myung Ho Lee, the $140mln loan in 1998 was allegedly taken “to purchase the Beatles catalog”. But Michael Jackson’s top advisor was supposed to know that the agreement with Sony didn’t allow either side to sell and purchase each other’s stakes before 2005. So the loan was for a different purpose, and Myung Ho Lee definitely didn’t tell the whole truth here.

Now what does the glaring discrepancy between the loans and Michael’s actual spending suggest?

It suggests that in the years 1998-2001, when Myung Ho Lee advised Jackson and which were critically important for his finances, most of his money went into some major investments that were a disaster and were therefore not disclosed by Jackson.

By his status alone Myung Ho Lee must have put his hand to those investments, but instead of revealing his role in squandering Michael’s money he sued him for “unpaid services” in the amount of about $13mln (more than $3mln a year). The media ran with his story like crazy focusing on Michael’s spending and never questioning the validity of Lee’s claims, and the public easily bought what Lee and the media were selling it.

And no one listened to Michael’s remonstrations that the person who sued him was actually the one who had stolen millions from him.

The excessive media clamor over Michael’s “outrageous lifestyle” and their uncharacteristic disinterest in the personality of Myung Ho Lee made me wonder about the role of this person in Michael’s life –  however any attempt to learn more led to an impasse.

Google brought me hundreds of pages reproducing Maureen Orth’s story and all those unconvincing figures from Myung Ho Lee’s lawsuit, but there was nothing – no information, no photos, no business activity, I mean nothing – about him and his company “Union Finance and Investment Corporation” which he was supposed to be head of.

The conspicuous absence of anything about Myung Ho Lee was puzzling, odd and utterly unusual.  After all, this was a Korean lawyer who got educated in the US, was CEO of a financial and investment company which rendered financial services to the most famous man on the planet, so how come he left no trace of business activity in the US and even South Korea?

Did he materialize from thin air to suddenly advise Michael Jackson on financial matters, and where did he suddenly disappear thereafter? And how could he be a financial counselor to Jackson and arrange multi-million loans for him from Bank of America if no one really knew him?

THE DODGERS

You cannot imagine the effort it took me to get at least some grains of information about this person.

The many hours of searching finally rewarded me with a story published in L.A.Weekly in 2012 about a certain Josh Macciello who wanted to buy the Dodgers baseball team with the help of investor Myung Ho Lee who provided him and his partner Fred Furrow with what the journalist of L.A.Weekly called

  • a single-page “proof of funds”, which purports to show that $10 billion is sitting in an account at HSBC in Hong Kong, under the name of Myung Ho Lee.”   

The journalist was also shown

  • “the trio’s $2.2 billion bid and a curriculum vitae for Myung Ho Lee, including his phone number.”

Fred Furrow, one of the trio, said that it was he who landed the big investor from Korea:

  • “South Korea–based Myung Ho Lee has committed to put $10 billion into his technologies in the very near future. He says he expected to have received some of the money already, but Lee recently came down with a potassium deficiency, which put him in the hospital for a week.”

The Weekly reporter got interested in Myung Ho Lee and introduced him as follows:

 “Myung Ho Lee has a colorful background. He is not on the Forbes list of Korean billionaires, but a quick Google search shows that he used to manage Michael Jackson’s financial affairs before the two had a falling-out in 2001. Lee made a number of headline-grabbing allegations against the pop star, including that he hired witch doctors and paid hush money to his ex-wife. Jackson’s lawyers claimed that Lee stole millions from Jackson. Lee filed a $12 million lawsuit against the singer, which was resolved in an out-of-court settlement in 2003.

Lee re-emerged in March 2011, in a press release from a company called Colorado Rare Earths Inc. According to the release, Lee’s company — Union Financial and Investment Corp. — had agreed to partner with the company to provide precious minerals to Korean companies. But the press contact on the release tells the Weekly the deal never went through.

With Myung Ho Lee now Macciello’s last possible source of billions for the Dodger purchase, and the clock ticking away on the promised money transfer, the Weekly attempted to reach him.

An assistant answers the phone in Korean but switches effortlessly to English and gives Lee’s cell number. Reached on that number, Lee says he’s in a meeting. Asked if he’s involved in the Dodger deal, he says,I’m not at liberty to confirm or deny that at the moment.”

Are you a billionaire?

“Far from that,” he says. “I would not characterize myself in that fashion. Talk to Fred about this, please.”

After Lee heard from a reporter, Furrow says, “He called me and blew up.”

“That money in Hong Kong was not allocated for the Dodgers,” Furrow continues. “If our investors found out we were using that money for the Dodger deal, we could lose $100 billion in international revenue.”

“We are no longer a player. Your call to Myung Ho Lee has caused us to totally drop out with Josh. … Any mention of our names in any future article will force us to take legal action.”

To make a long story short Josh Marcello turned out to be a fraud and convicted drug dealer (see here).

His partner Fred Furrow was no better as his company Full Circle Energy, Inc. offering new technology to “generate clean, renewable electricity from garbage and human waste” relied on someone who said he had access to the owners of the technology located in Russia, but the consultants checking up on Furrow wrote that “Existing commercial examples DO NOT EXIST.” Now Fred Furrow is running a company called Full Circle Energy Therapies and promises “to empower and facilitate his clients’ natural abilities to heal on a personalized basis”.

As to Myung Ho Lee as an investor who allegedly sent them a proof-of-funds paper with $10 billion on his account, he hasn’t been heard of since 2012 and the only piece I found was a short note from the municipal authorities of one of Seoul’s districts offering condolences to his sister Lee So-Yung and stating that he died in 2018 (same as Michael Jackson he was born in 1958).

It is true that Myung Ho Lee’s participation in the above multi-billion fraud isn’t proof enough that he was also a charlatan and hardened rogue like the others. Like any investor he could be gullible enough to have simply fallen under their spell.

However at the very best this scam pointed to him having a penchant for what he himself accused Michael Jackson of – a weakness for “charlatans”, “hangers-on”, “hucksters”, “impostors”, “con artists”, “sycophants” and “swindlers”. And even if this was his only drawback, for a top financial advisor who advised Michael Jackson on his investments, it was a totally unacceptable flaw.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE EVENTS

According to Myung Ho Lee’s lawsuit he began setting up investments for Michael Jackson in 1997 after being introduced to him by another Korean:

  • According to the suit, Lee began working for Jackson in 1997, giving him business and career advice and arranging loans and setting up investments, after being introduced by another Korean businessman whom Jackson met following a failed charity concert in Seoul.

In the late 1990s Michael Jackson indeed had very close ties with South Korea.  The concert called ‘failed’ in the above piece was a concert Michael wanted to arrange in the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea as a symbol of unity of all Koreans, however it was never realized for obvious reasons.

The Korean “Sad farewell to the King of Pop” reminded of it:

  • He dreamed of a fairy-tale world. He always sent out a message of peace to the world, and wanted to perform in both South and North Korea, since Korea is the only divided country on the planet. When it became difficult to perform in Pyongyang, he decided to perform in the demilitarized zone instead, and on Nov. 18, 1997, he visited Muju resort without any reservations or prior plans to make contact with Kim Dae-jung, who was a presidential candidate at the time. After that meeting, Jackson even appeared at Kim’s inauguration on Feb. 25 the following year.
  • Jackson’s contact with Korea stopped after his “Michael Jackson and Friends” charity concert in Seoul with Mariah Carey and others on June 25, 1999.

Actually the contact with Korea did not stop in 1999 as Myung Ho Lee kept advising Michael Jackson at least until 2001. And when Michael visited the Korean Muju resort in November 1997 Myung Ho Lee was already there.

MJ and Kim Dae-jung

Michael Jackson’s many connections to Korea

 2020-04-24 

Somehow, in late 1997 he began a friendship with Kim Dae-jung who was running for the top office in South Korea.

Jackson, financier George Soros and former U.S. trade negotiator Mickey Kantor took part in an international video conference meant to boost Kim’s chances. “Korea is a country of warmth, love, sincerity and complete innocence,” Jackson proclaimed with considerable grandiosity.

Kim did indeed win, and Jackson was in Seoul shortly thereafter to meet with the president-elect. They had a press conference with handshakes, bear hugs and warm words.

MJ was back two months later to witness Kim’s inauguration ceremony. Photos from that day show Jackson in bright red amid a sea of Koreans wearing black or at least dark clothes.

He returned to Korea in the summer of 1999. This was a short tour that also included a show in Munich.  His concert took place June 25, 1999.

One member of Jackson’s large and ever-changing staff was Lee Myung-ho, a U.S.-educated Korean lawyer. Lee spent a lot of time at Neverland, Jackson’s 2,700-acre estate in southern California. Lee [] filed a $12 million civil suit to compel payment for services rendered. It ended in 2003 when the two sides reached an out-of-court settlement.

Recently there was a fire at the Muju resort hotel where Michael stayed in 1997, and in this connection the Korean press recalled that Michael visited it not only to discuss that concert but also some investments and was accompanied by a “Korean-American lawyer” who was Myung Ho Lee, of course.

Michael Jackson was so much in love with Korea that he named the country “God” and left a message on the hotel nightstand calling on people to love and save children……The hotel was burned down, but room 501 where he stayed miraculously survived the fire.

This article was google translated from Korean:

The Muju Tyrol Hotel burned down… The miracle of Michael Jackson’s old room 501

2021.02.21

The Tyrol Hotel in Deogyusan Resort, Muju, Jeollabuk-do, was completely extinguished in 4 hours and 50 minutes after a fire broke out at 11:40 pm on the 20th = News

This is where Jackson, who visited Korea in 1997 to discuss investment, stayed for 3 days and 2 nights.

There were concerns that the fire that hit the hotel might have burned even the traces of Jackson, but fortunately, the damage to the room he stayed in was reported to be minor.

Jackson came to Korea to discuss investment  in the Mkji Resort Children’s Park owned by SsangBall. According to reports 24 years ago, he visited Muju with three bodyguards and a Korean-American lawyer. The group occupied the entire 5th floor of the hotel, but Jackson stayed in Suite 501.

Jackson left his mark on the wooden nightstand next to the bed in this room. “LOVE and SAVE OUR CHILDREN. KOREA IS GOD AND MUJU IS LOVE.” A picture of a human face was also engraved next to the phrase “LOVE always (Love children and save them. Korea is God and Muju is love. With eternal love)’.

Afterwards, the resort changed the name of the room to ‘Michael Jackson’s Room’ to commemorate Jackson’s stay.

During his visit to Korea, Jackson met former President Kim Dae-jung, a strong opposition presidential candidate, and returned to Korea to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Kim Dae-jung in February 1998. They even submitted a letter of intent to invest in Muju Resort, but no actual investment was made.

https://news.joins.com/article/23996631

What was Myung Ho Lee’s role in those investments? Did he have any money of his own or did he use his connections in Korea to provide funds from third parties for the proposed projects?

No, none of it. From the moment Myung Ho Lee stuck to Michael Jackson he thought of him as an endless source of money which Lee could freely invest here and there, and when he found that MJ had financial problems of his own, Lee was extremely disappointed and it was evidently due to his crushed expectations that the resort investment plans were never realized.

In fact Lee said it directly that he joined Michael only because he thought him to be “incredibly wealthy:

30 May 2003  

Lee’s lawsuit claims that he agreed to represent Jackson in the 1990s, believing that the 44-year-old former child star was “incredibly wealthy” thanks to decades as a pop icon and ownership of a large portion of the Beatles song catalog.

“At the time … there was no clue that Jackson’s extravagant lifestyle had all but bankrupted him,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit charges that Jackson had burned through hundreds of millions of dollars by 2000 and was living on lines of credit arranged by Lee.

How could Michael Jackson plan to make investments if he didn’t have spare money on his hands?

Michael was indeed “cash-poor” but was far from bankrupt – he could sell his ATV and MIJAC catalogs and get hundreds of millions in cash, however he didn’t want to part with them and instead looked for investment projects that would give him good returns and in order to finance them he was ready to take a loan backed by the music publishing rights in his possession.

Who gave him the idea to make those investments? Well, probably Myung Ho Lee did.

But was Lee qualified enough to guide others in their financial planning? Let us have a look.

MYUNG HO LEE’S BUSINESS

The only one article about Myung Ho Lee available on the Korean Internet is dated 1998.

This was a year after Lee began advising Jackson, but even then he was still “a new face on the finance market” in Korea, though a promising and ambitious one whose goal was to become “Korea’s Goldman Sachs”.

The article praised Lee for his successful resale to some foreigners of the $20mln Iranian outstanding debt to Samsung, so that Samsung finally got back their money. The article also explained the way Myung Ho Lee was doing his business.

The essence of it was to borrow money ‘from overseas’ (Michael Jackson, for example), and lend it to domestic or other companies, or provide related advice, and receive a commission in return.

His aspiration was to create Korea’s investment bank No.1 that would rival Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and JP Morgan, however since we’ve never heard of his company again, and it is not listed among any Korean financial institutions and its address belongs to a totally different company dealing in rare minerals, his goal was never realized even in its minimum.

Here is the 1998 piece about Myung Ho Lee – the only one available on the worldwide web, google translated from Korean and slightly shortened:

[Finance New Market New Face] Union Investment Finance President Myung-Ho Lee

“Become Korea’s Goldman Sachs.”

Enter 1998-11-05 19:34 Edited 2009-09-24 20:46

Union is a company that borrows money from overseas on the basis of large-scale projects, trade, and joint ventures of domestic companies, lends them to companies or provides related advice, and receives commissions in return. 

This is what investment banks that are well-known in Korea, such as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and JP Morgan, do this. It is the No. 1 domestic investment bank.

Lee Myung-ho (40 years old) is the son of the late Foreign Minister Lee Beom-seok, who died in the 1983 bombing of the Aung San Mausoleum in Myanmar (then Burma). 

After working as a lawyer in the United States, he returned to Korea at the end of 1994. At Sonanshine Nas & Rosenthal Law Firm, where he joined after graduating from Chicago Law School, he and three other lawyers went public with Allstate Insurance, the largest in US history ($2.4 billion).

He revealed the reason for the founding of Union.

“The finance business is much more creative than the legal one. You can dynamically do things from $10 million to over $10 billion. It is also an area where Korea can do well, because there are a lot of smart people instead of a lack of natural resources.”

He spends about nine months of the year abroad. As of the 5th, he is on a business trip to Singapore, USA and South Africa on a full-day schedule. His aspirations were revealed through an international phone call from Singapore. “We will create a Korean investment bank that is recognized not only in the domestic market but also in the international market.”

▼ Biography ▼

△ Born in Seoul △ Bachelor of Economics from Yonsei University in 1982 △ Master of Business Administration from George Washington University in 1987 △ Juris Doctor from Chicago Law School in 1990 △ Lawyer at Sonanshine Nas & Rosenthal, a law firm in 1990 △ International affairs advisor to Korea Stock Exchange in 1994 △95 Feb. Established Union Investment

https://www.donga.com/news/Economy/article/all/19981105/7392970/1

With all due respect for Myung Ho Lee’s credentials his goal was not running Michael Jackson’s finances for the benefit of his client as he claimed it was.

His goal was to use Michael as a source of ‘overseas money’ which could be invested elsewhere with profits going directly into his new investment bank, or even investing Michael’s money straight into his start-up project.

In this context this piece from “Losing his grip” by Maureen Orth is seen in a totally different light:

Lee’s $12-million-plus suit claims “Jackson’s extravagant lifestyle had all but bankrupted him… Jackson never intended to put his business and personal affairs in order, but instead wished to continue to spend well beyond his means and to retain and take advice from charlatans and hangers-on.”

Jackson’s lawyers counter that Lee duped Jackson and “stole millions of dollars of Jackson’s money by … authorizing wire transfers from Jackson International to Union’s Korean accounts.”

Robert Silverman, Lee’s lawyer, scoffs at these charges. “Can you believe this guy? My client saves his life and gets him all this new financing. Michael even gives him a $400,000 car. But when it comes time to pay him, he practically denies even knowing him.”

Indeed, can we believe this guy – I mean Jackson – when he says that Myung Ho Lee stole millions from him by authorizing wire transfers from ‘Jackson International’ to his ‘Union Finance and Investment’ company in Korea?

We absolutely can.  

Myung Ho Lee set up ‘Jackson International’ and made himself president of it to be able to handle all Michael’s investments and financial operations. The fact that Lee transferred millions of dollars from Michael Jackson’s pocket to his own company’s accounts is absolutely believable because this was actually the modus operandi he openly proclaimed as the very essence of his business – “he borrows money from overseas and lends them to companies, and receives commissions in return”. 

I am even certain that after transferring Michael’s money to his investment bank he lent it to his clients in Korea and certainly at a bank interest rate. And if those companies went bust with Michael’s money invested into them, the minimal profit guaranteed to Lee was the commission he charged from his Korean clients, same as a commission he took from Michael Jackson for actually borrowing money from him.

What an unbeatable business plan that could never fail!

Myung didn’t risk any money of his own and if the investment went bad and Michael complained about the wasted funds, in the toxic media environment created by Maureen Orth and her ilk no one would believe Michael’s arguments, blaming only him for bad judgment and the grandiosity of plans.

THE DOCUMENTS

To make Michael unable to prove any embezzlement of his funds Myung Ho Lee destroyed all documentation for the whole period of his work for Jackson, except for some months in 1999 the respective papers for which were attached to his lawsuit.

Zia Modabber who represented Michael in that litigation accused Myung Ho Lee of destroying the financial records in order to cover up his misdeeds.

Fri 30 May 2003

The curtain will rise again next month in the long-running drama of Michael Jackson, this time playing out as a bitter court fight between the reclusive entertainer and a top adviser that could offer a rare glimpse into his personal life and finances.

Among the allegations that could spill into a Los Angeles courtroom are that the one-time King of Pop is broke, having squandered his fortune in “bizarre” ways while egged on by a string of “charlatans”, “hangers-on”, “hucksters”, “impostors”, “con artists”, “sycophants” and “swindlers”.

The claims are set out in a lawsuit by Jackson’s former financial advisor, Myung-Ho Lee, and his firm Union Finance and Investment Corp, who seek $US12 million for alleged breach of contract and fraud.

Jackson has counter-sued, claiming that his trusted advisor – whom he called “Lawyer Lee” – and Union Finance stole millions from him and destroyed records to cover up their misdeeds.

The complaint about the destroyed records could be regarded as a mere excuse on Michael Jackson’s part if it were not for the independent opinion of John Duross O’Bryan, the accountant who testified for the prosecution at the 2005 trial and who confirmed that the documents for that period were indeed missing.  

O’Bryan said that he was told by the prosecutors that the financial documents for the 2000s were simply “not available to him”, without an explanation why.

 TESTIMONY OF O’BRYAN May 3, 2005:

 Q. BY MR. MESEREAU:  When you began your examination by the prosecutor for the government, you indicated there was some documents that you had wanted to see if you could, but they were not available to you, right?

A.  That is correct.

Q.  And what documents were they?

A.  Those would be — well, we’d like to see financial statements for 2000 — for 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and all the way through February of 2003.  In addition to that, general ledgers, which are the summation of transactions, which become financial statements. [ ] They were just simply not made available to us.

Q.  Okay.  They were not made available to you by the prosecutor who hired you, correct?

A:  I was simply told that that information was not available to me.

Q.  BY MR. MESEREAU:  Well, you’ve never spoken to anyone on the defense side, correct?

A.  I have not, no. 

Q. Did you see any year-by-year breakdowns about what Mr. Jackson was supposedly spending this money on?

A.  Well, we showed you 1999, which summarized it by four or five different categories.  There was some information in 2000.  There was not — I don’t recall any information in ’01 or ’02. [ ] As I mentioned, we didn’t get all the financial statements and all the documents that we talked about, no.

So it is actually the prosecution witness who proved to us that most of the financial records, kept by Myung Ho Lee in those years, were really destroyed and Michael was telling the absolute truth, only no one believed him as everyone was busy swallowing those lurid voodoo stories from Maureen Orth who hang on each of Lee’s words.

Both Lee and Orth obviously knew that if you want to deflect public attention from something really important, it is enough to tell a big and spectacular lie and run with it, and everyone will follow you without looking back.

According to Maureen Orth and her “Neverland lost boys” story, Myung Ho Lee was assisted in his untiring work for Jackson by his sister So-Yung who worked at Jackson International as the chief legal officer:

  • “Lee’s sister, So-Yung [ ] was the chief legal officer for Jackson International between 1998 and 2001”

Steve Knopper, the author of “MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson” says that during the period of So-Yung’s work for Michael Jackson he gave her a Lexus car worth $50,000 and paid the rent on two Century City condos, including furnishings, utilities and cable bills. As to Myung Ho Lee, his lawyer has already told us that Michael gave him a car that cost $400,000.

Steve Knopper:

  • Eventually, Lee sued Michael, divulging juicy details in his complaint: Michael had wired $150,000 to a Mali bank to pay Baba, a voodoo chief who ritually sacrificed forty cows in a ceremony designed to curse Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. By way of response, Jackson’s attorneys accused Lee of using Michael’s assets to enrich himself in elaborate ways: he paid for his sister’s $50,000 Lexus and the rent on two Century City condos, including furnishings, utilities, and cable bills.

Thus Myung Ho Lee and his sister kept ‘advising’ Jackson for several years, never having to pay for their rent and bills, and charging Michael Jackson a commission for transferring his money to Korea, until Jackson International was finally closed in 2001.

The Celebrityaccess reports that the company was shuttered in June 2001 and this time is suggestive of a moment when Michael Jackson parted with Myung Ho Lee and his sister:

  • “…in June, Jackson shuttered Jackson International, which handled all his money and investments.” 

LAWSUIT

In April 2002 Myung Ho Lee sued Jackson claiming that on September 14, 2001 Michael allegedly signed an agreement with Lee promising to pay him $13mln in back pay.

However, considering that Michael fired him several months prior to the date of agreement, in June 2001, the story was most probably a lie – there was no reason for Michael to sign it at that moment and do it in the absence of a lawyer at that.

In fact, due to the lack of documents Myung Ho Lee could claim anything and according to one of his versions he was fired in August 2001 and then immediately rehired, right in time for the agreement 🙂 The piece where he claims it actually starts with another of his lies – about him arranging “for the $140mln loan for Jackson to buy the complete catalog of Beatles songs”.

Lee said he arranged for $140 million in 1998 for Jackson to buy the complete catalog of Beatles songs. The next year, Jackson told Lee he’d gone through the money and needed more to settle his divorce from nurse Debbie Rowe, according to the lawsuit.

Jackson fired Lee in August 2001, then immediately rehired him. It was unclear when both men went their separate ways, but it occurred sometime between fall 2001 and the filing of Lee’s lawsuit last April.

Whatever the case, Michael’s attorney Zia Modabber discovered that MJ’s signature under that agreement was forged and that Michael Jackson wasn’t even in Los Angeles at the time of its signing:

Jacko’s Defense: Was His Signature Forged?

Tuesday, July 30, 2002
By Roger Friedman

So what does Michael Jackson say about the $13 million lawsuit filed by former business manager Myung-Ho Lee?

He says in a sworn statement included in court papers that he never signed an agreement last September promising that he would pay Lee the money. His assistant says the same thing in another document and another affidavit, by a bodyguard, swears that Jackson was traveling on Sept. 14 and was not in Los Angeles at all.

Lee says that he and Jackson met in Los Angeles on Sept. 14 and that Michael signed a piece of paper admitting that he owed Lee nearly $14 million. No lawyers were present.

First, Jackson:

“I specifically looked at the signature that appears at the end of this document above my typed name. This is not my signature. I did not sign this document and have never seen [it] until a few weeks ago. I would never knowingly sign a document that expressly required me to pay over $13 million to Mr. Lee or anyone else, alone in a room and without review and counsel by one or more of my attorneys.”

If you remember, Jackson was in New York on the morning of Sept. 11, having just completed the second of his two anniversary concerts. When he heard that the World Trade Center was under attack, Jackson and his posse are said to have rented a bus and high-tailed it out of New York. If they drove directly back, they could have been in Los Angeles by the 14th.

Zia Modabber, Jackson’s litigator in this case, includes an affidavit sworn by former Los Angeles Country Sheriff Michael Laperruque, who states that he was with Jackson on Sept. 14 and that they were not in California.[ ]

More interesting, perhaps, is the story of how Michael borrowed the initial $140 million which he backed with his 50 percent ownership of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, aka the Beatles catalog.

According to statements included in Jackson’s opposition papers, a meeting took place in attorney John Branca’s suite at the swanky Waldorf Towers in New York.

Branca met with, among others, Jane Heller, Jackson’s banker from Bank of America/NationsBank since 1993.

Heller does confirm in her new statement what this column reported back in April. “I participated in and supervised perhaps as many as five financing transactions with Mr. Jackson.” What she fails to add is that each one dug his financial hole deeper — until it was so deep he couldn’t get out of it.

https://web.archive.org/web/20020814201341/https://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,59085,00.html

Oh, so besides forging Michael’s signature Myung Ho Lee also lied that it was him who arranged the $140mln loan?

He attributed it to himself only and though he could indeed sign it as Michael’s then chief financial advisor, now we learn that the loan was arranged by John Branca.

The Guardian confirms it:

On the surface of things, 1998 was an unremarkable year for Michael Jackson. But at the Waldorf Towers on East 50th Street in Manhattan that year – according to court documents only reported by the US media years later – something genuinely remarkable did happen. Jackson’s attorney, John Branca [ ] reportedly hosted a meeting at his Waldorf suite with Jane Heller, Jackson’s personal banker at the Bank of America.

Hence the Waldorf Towers meeting, and its highly confidential outcome. A loan would be made to Jackson from Bank of America for $140m. It was to be secured against the star’s most cherished asset – his half-ownership of the Sony/ATV music catalogue. The loan was the equivalent of at least seven years’ income for Jackson at the time. And yet, by the middle of the following year, his former business manager Myung Ho Lee would later claim, it had been depleted. It was increased to $200m.

Each new loan refinanced the previous one, and this way the $140mln loan repaid the first $90mln (also arranged by Branca) leaving Michael with about $45mln or so of available funds after deduction of the interest paid on the earlier loan. And if Michael invested those funds in some disastrous projects advised to him by Lee, that money could indeed easily vanish just within a year. 

Zia Modabber also brought it to the judge’s attention that Myung Ho Lee was not licensed to provide any financial services in California and on this basis made a motion to dismiss his lawsuit.

Having no license and not being registered by the respective authorities is actually a sure sign that the person engaged in this business is a shady character – banking institutions constantly warn people against trusting unlicensed dealers with their money, especially when the sums at stake are millions of dollars.

So it was no accident that with no license and no right to render financial services, the first thing Myung Ho Lee did after worming himself into Michael’s confidence, was pushing out John Branca and Zia Modabber “any way he could” according to Modabber.

We learn it from Steve Knopper who explains the move by Lee’s desire to “ruthlessly overhaul Michael’s finances”. But in hindsight it is obvious that Myung Ho Lee never even entertained the idea of remedying MJ’s situation – his goal was to enrich himself at Michael’s expense and consolidate his investment bank in Korea, so any lawyers who could check on him and his plans were certainly unwelcome.

According to Steve Knopper,

  • “Lee set to ruthlessly overhaul Michael’s finances. “Michael gave him all kinds of ability and authority and power, and he exercised it to push John [Branca] out, any way he could, and push me out,» says Zia Modabber, one of Michael’s longtime lawyers, who had defended him in a number of cases after the Chandler settlement turned Michael into a legal punching bag.”

Michael as a punching bag… Indeed, by organizing a brutal media campaign in April 2003 via Maureen Orth and spilling more oil into the fire after Bashir’s film, Myung Ho Lee and his other attorney Pierce O’Donnell turned Michael Jackson into a punching bag again. The goal was to present him in so ridiculous a light that no one in his right mind would believe his arguments when Myung Ho Lee sued him for those millions.

For a goal like that anything would do, and the crazier lie the better – hence the lurid 42-cows blood bath story, the voodoo stuff and wire transfers to Mali (instead of wire transfers to Korea in real life).

The name of Pierce O’Donnell in connection with this wild narrative deserves a separate comment.

Maureen Orth names Pierce O’Donnell of O’Donnell & Shaeffer of LA as Myung Ho Lee’s lead attorney, who “submitted voluminous records of Jackson’s expenses and budgets as part of their complaint to the Superior Court of California.”

The CNN article dated 1999 describes Pierce O’Donnell as part and parcel of Hollywood. This trial lawyer takes pride in embodying the skills of a film-maker, a scriptwriter and director of the performance. His main expertise lies in the area of spin and his rhetoric is said to be completely out of proportion to the case he is handling.  Actually it was O’Donnell who called Michael Jackson “a ticking financial time bomb waiting to explode at any moment” – a catch phrase that was picked by the media and circled around the globe several times over. 

This shortened piece about him makes an interesting read:

Lights! Camera! Lawsuit! Hollywood loves courtroom dramas. Pierce O’Donnell knows how to stage them.

October 11, 1999

O’Donnell belongs in the movie industry.”The trial lawyer,” he argues, “has to embody the skills of a great filmmaker. He’s a writer–he writes his own material, he outlines what his witnesses are going to say. He’s the director–he directs the performances. He’s the producer–he has to make all the physical arrangements. And he’s the actor.”

And as for the publicity problem–well, when it comes to manufacturing drama and rallying public opinion, Pierce O’Donnell is the equal of any studio.

But O’Donnell is also an expert at spin, at telling a story that paints his clients and himself in the best possible light. He paints his clients as pawns in the hands of a large, arrogant opponent–a hook that’s nearly impossible for the press to resist.

O’Donnell also has an instinct for the turn of phrase that will make it onto the evening news. His briefs are larded with florid prose that seems calculated to delight courthouse reporters.

Pretty much the only drawback to O’Donnell’s rhetoric is that it can be completely out of proportion to the cases involved.  … The other common critique of O’Donnell: that his technique of trying his entertainment industry cases in the showiest, most public fashion possible is designed to serve him, rather than the law, and has hastened the legal profession’s slide toward celebrity.

Remember, this is a man who talks about his cases in terms of movies, with himself as the filmmaker.

Didn’t all of us feel that there was an element of Hollywood make-believe to all those Myung Ho Lee’s florid stories?  And what could you expect if his attorney regarded the case in terms of movies and himself as the filmmaker???

Despite all these maneuvers the judge was obviously leaning towards Michael Jackson as several media reported that she was pondering over dismissing Lee’s case:

Judge mulls dismissing Jacko lawsuit

Jun 3, 2003

A Los Angeles judge said on Monday that she would consider throwing out a lawsuit against Michael Jackson by a former top financial advisor who claims that he is owed $12-million by the onetime King of Pop.

Superior Court Judge Andria Richey said she would also consider request from news organisations to televise the bitter court fight between Jackson and Myung-Ho Lee if it goes forward as scheduled on June 18.

Jackson’s lawyer, Zia Modabber, urged Richey to ban cameras from the courtroom, citing a worldwide media sensation during his November testimony in a central California court case.

But Kelli Sager, an attorney for CourtTV, argued that the 44-year-old superstar could not “veto” public access to a court case simply because he was unhappy with past press coverage. Jackson was not in court.

During a brief hearing on Monday, Jackson’s lawyer Zia Modabber asked Richey to dismiss the suit on the grounds that Lee was not a licensed financial advisor in California and therefore could not have signed a valid contract with Jackson.

Richey said she would rule as early as Monday afternoon on the issue and decide whether to allow cameras in court.

So the media wanted to televise the trial, same as in the Chandler 1993 case!

This is probably why Michael decided to settle with Lee and for a sum “well into seven figures” according to Randall Sullivan despite the fact that his lawsuit was nearly thrown out:

  • Though Jackson nearly had Lee’s lawsuit thrown out, the Korean’s attorneys successfully scheduled a deposition of Michael Jackson in June 2003, at which the singer’s finances would be fully explored. The day before he was to be questioned, Jackson settled out of court for a sum said to be “well into seven figures.”

And you wonder why Michael Jackson settled with the Chandlers for $15,3mln?

The fact that the Chandler’s civil trial was also to be televised is thoroughly hidden from the public eye but in 1994 the LA Times did report it on the day of Michael Jackson’s settlement with the Chandlers:

  • “Now, those immediate problems have been lifted, and he will avoid the spectacle of a nationally televised civil trial probing the most intimate aspects of his personal life.”
On January 26, 1994, the day when MJ settled with the Chandlers, LA Times revealed that the civil trial was to be televised

History virtually repeated itself. Ten years prior to Lee’s lawsuit Michael had a fight with the Chandlers and would have certainly won it, but he still chose to settle rather than have the civil court proceedings televised too and the photos of his genitalia, fully exonerating him from all allegations, shown to the public.

He just saved himself from the horrible embarrassment of it, same as he saved himself from the embarrassment of disclosing his finances to each and everyone in Myung Ho Lee’s case on national TV.

POST-SLANDER

The surprising fact about Myung Ho Lee is that even after his money problem was settled to his full satisfaction, he still continued going after Jackson.

A year after the settlement, in March 2004, Myung Ho Lee reappeared on Vanity Fair to tell new lies about MJ. The pretrial proceedings were looking into the allegations about Michael treating the Arvizo boys to wine, and Lee was quick to come up with a story that he heard a certain Japanese boy to have been given cans of Jesus Juice which actually contained wine.

Jesus Juice was indeed Michael’s word for wine, meaning that if Jesus allowed himself wine, it was okay for him too – however not to let any children see him drinking it, he ordered it in cans and not in glasses.

Maureen Orth wrote about the new story from Myung Ho Lee:

Lee says he is not surprised at the boy’s allegations. Lee was with Jackson in Tokyo in 1998, when Jackson announced with great fanfare a new venture with a Japanese consortium to open three theme parks and a chain of stores called Wonder World of Toys that would stretch across Japan. The project failed almost immediately, according to Lee, because of what happened to the 13-year-old son of one of Jackson’s Japanese partners: “During this time Michael took [the boy] to a theme park one evening. One of Jackson’s people gave Michael three soda cans full of Jesus juice. Later that evening the boy came back sick. Security informed me that he appeared drunk, and his father was very upset.”

Mind it that Lee was careful enough not to claim that it was Michael himself, but just “one of his people” who allegedly gave those cans, however the media is unable to see such nuances and turned it into another freak show about Jackson.

The wine theme naturally blurred what was apparently the real reason for Myung Ho Lee’s story – to distract attention from the fact that the investment projects under his guidance were invariably a failure and point his finger at Jackson instead.

Myung Ho Lee’s story was fully denounced by the boy. When Richard Matsuura was already 18, both he and his father called it “completely false”. Here is what Richard said on Mike Taibbi’s segment for NBC News:

  • As Taibbi reports, “Matsuura says Jackson never said or did anything inappropriate in the four days he spent in his company.” According to Taibbi, NBC News interviewed Matsuura’s father as well and he corroborated his son’s statements.

The story was just another of those innumerable lies about Jackson, but what makes it so special is that Myung Ho Lee told it and kept slandering Michael after they parted their ways, which makes me think that there is more to this person than meets the eye.  

Add to it that the media and Google are keeping away from the public even the few unpleasant facts about Myung Ho Lee reported in this post.

Indeed, it is extremely strange that any traces about Myung Ho Lee’s activity are completely deleted from the Internet and the few leftovers were found either by the alternative Duckduckgo browser or by translating the search into Korean and back 🙂

Besides, we don’t know yet what particular investments Myung Ho Lee made with Michael Jackson’s money and on what projects he squandered it.

This is really a hard task and it will have to be left for another time.

[end of part 5]

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2021 5:15 pm

    Do you mind watching the video of Prince, Debbie, and MJ at a Munich hotel in 1997? – mjinnocent1

    You mean this one?

    So what?
    The first thing that impressed me is that Michael was sitting on the outside edge of the window with his feet hanging in the air as effortlessly as other people sit on a sofa. He must have indeed been very strong, athletic and also fearless.

    I myself cannot even imagine anything like that, so the first lesson Michael’s critics should learn is that if they are physically unable to do it, it doesn’t mean that this was any problem for Michael.

    As to Prince, the baby was in his mother’s arms and it was she who passed him into Michael’s hands. And if she did, it means that the baby was perfectly safe. Mothers KNOW and would never risk the lives of their babies!

    If anything, this video shows a delightful scene of Michael and Debby being very proud of their baby and being extremely happy at that time. It made me smile and feel grateful to Debbie that at least with his children Michael could enjoy some moments of happiness at last.

    Like

  2. November 2, 2021 4:46 pm

    “It’s not the progressives and liberals. No, you want to look for the arch conservative and kingmaker of them all: Rupert Murdoch.”

    Well, well… You needn’t tell me about Rupert Murdoch because I myself discussed him at least ten years ago. Besides numerous comments there was even a separate post about Murdoch: https://vindicatemj.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/truth-vs-moral-idea-regarding-michael-jackson/

    But since then a lot of other research has been done, and though Murdoch’s tabloids did enormous damage to Michael, the yellow press is after all not so influential as the “quality” press which is supposed to be balanced and well-informed.

    So when media outlets like CNN, the NY Times and others in the US as well as the UK quality papers, published absolutely ugly stories about Michael, surpassing in their lies and venom even the tabloids, I realized that the problem was much deeper than I initially thought.

    By the way, now a tabloid like the Daily Mail, for example, often tells more truth than the sources which are traditionally considered reputable.

    Things have changed, and if some papers and even news agencies were once considered the pillars of journalism, it doesn’t mean that they are living up to this standard today.

    Like

  3. mjinnocent1 permalink
    October 13, 2021 7:50 pm

    Thank you so much for this Helena. Do you mind watching the video of Prince, Debbie, and MJ at a Munich hotel in 1997? There’s another allegation he held a baby over a edge. If you want to while your at it, it may be ideal to also address the 2002 instance. Not necessarily say he was right, but just give your views on it. Thank you

    Like

  4. Illumination Round permalink
    October 11, 2021 11:03 pm

    You really want to know who’s ultimately responsible for setting up Michael Jackson’s downfall and enabling David Geffen to get away with everything? Big hint: it’s not the progressives and liberals.

    No, you want to look for the arch conservative and kingmaker of them all: Rupert Murdoch.

    Before Murdoch bought The News of the World and The Sun, tabloids meant something different. They were “the people’s papers”, anti-establishment, breaking the buck, and speaking up boldly for the underprivileged, a voice for the voiceless. Murdoch ruined all that, with his focus on soft porn, titillation, scandal and dirt.

    Tabloids like The Daily Mirror followed suit, especially when it fell in the hands of Robert Maxwell, the con man and father of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s procurer. New tabloids sprouted up to follow in their footsteps, and mainstream newspapers, TV programs and so forth became just like tabloids.

    Murdoch owns 60 percent of the media in Australia, more than a third of the media in Great Britain, and a considerable stranglehold in America with The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, HarperCollins, Fox News and Fox Business. His coarsening of standards and dumbing down of discourse brought this all down. They did it to so many other people, Michael was just the next in line, and not the last.

    Look at the documentary, Breaking The Mirror, to show what Murdoch has done to journalism: https://thoughtmaybe.com/breaking-the-mirror-the-murdoch-effect/

    Tabloids as we know it and vulture press of the type that attacked Michael all happened because of Rupert Murdoch. He’s the one who started it all.

    Like

  5. August 20, 2021 7:46 am

    Incredible detective work. Thank you so much!

    Like

  6. Molignon permalink
    August 16, 2021 2:35 pm

    Thank you, Helena….

    Like

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