We continue to add all emails here as they surface:
“Make sure that the mattresses are in top shape or they will have to be changed,” Murray wrote in a June 15, 2009, email about the posh residence he planned to inhabit with his three daughters and infants
And two months before Ortega complained to Phillips that Jackson appeared “weak” and neglected by his personal staff, an AEG executive personally fired Jackson’s longtime nanny and confidant Grace Rwaramba to help the bottom line.
“AEG has been cutting down on Mr. Jackson’s expenses in anticipation of his upcoming tour. Unfortunately at this time the services you provide do not meet our needs,” AEG exec Paul Gongaware told Rwaramba April 19.
Perhaps most shocking were emails Phillips sent an AEG colleague shortly before Jackson stood at a podium in the O2 arena on March 5, 2009, and blew kisses to his screaming fans as he announced the “This Is It” deal.
“MJ is locked in his room drunk and despondent,” Phillips wrote. “Tohme and I are trying to sober him up and get him to the press conference.”
“Are you kidding me?” the colleague wrote back. Together, Phillips and Tohme dressed Jackson in his glittering black satin neo-military suit and sunglasses.
“I screamed at him so loud the walls are shaking,” Phillips wrote. “This is the scariest thing I have ever seen.
He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self loathing and doubt now that it is show time. He is scared to death.”
(Admin note, as you all saw the TII announcement in UK, Michael was NOT DRUNK! So we have no idea what Phillips was trying to pull with Tim Leiweke
Kenny Ortega sent a panicked email in the predawn hours of June 20, 2009, telling promoter Randy Phillips, the head of AEG Live, that Jackson appeared too “weak and fatigued” to rehearse the previous night, “trembling, rambling and obsessing” to the point Ortega recommended a psychological exam.
When Phillips didn’t immediately address his fears, Ortega fired off another email 11 hours later, the Daily News has learned.
“I honestly felt if I had encouraged or allowed him on stage last night he could have hurt himself,” Ortega wrote to Phillips in the confidential 1:20 p.m.
Phillips responded within the hour, shooting down Ortega’s concerns with even more force than formerly exposed. “It is critical that neither you, me, or anyone around this show become amateur psychiatrists or physicians,” he wrote, adding that he was in touch with Jackson’s personal doctor, Conrad Murray, and had gained “immense respect” for the cardiologist who would later got to jail for involuntary manslaughter.
“(Murray) said that Michael is not only physically equipped to perform (but) that discouraging him to (perform) will hasten his decline instead of stopping it,” Phillips said.
“You cannot imagine the harm and ramifications of stopping the show now,” he wrote. “It would far outweigh ‘calling this game in the 7th inning.’ I am not just talking about AEG’s interests here, but the myriad of stuff and lawsuits swirling around MJ that I crisis manage every day and also his well-being.”
The trove of emails detailing dire concerns over Jackson’s health are expected to play a central role in two lawsuits set for trial next year.
“I screamed at him so loud the walls are shaking,” Phillips told him. “He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self loathing and doubt now that it is show time.”
The 250 pages of messages illuminate the extent to which top executives were aware of doubts about Jackson’s stability as they prepared for his 50-show concert run at their London arena.
The emails will probably play a central role in two lawsuits set for trial next year. The shows’ insurers are asking a judge to nullify a $17.5-million policy that they say AEG got with false claims about Jackson’s health and readiness to perform. Jackson’s heirs are pressing a wrongful-death suit that accuses AEG of pressuring the pop star to carry on with a comeback despite indications he was too weak.
Lawyers for AEG, which has denied any wrongdoing, said most of the correspondence was produced as discovery in ongoing litigation. They said the messages reviewed by The Times were incomplete and leaked to portray the company in a negative light. The lawyers declined to provide additional emails that they said would give a fuller picture, citing a protective order imposed by a judge in the civil litigation.
“If you are in the creative arts business, you are going to be involved with individuals who have a great many problems,” said AEG attorney Marvin Putnam. “Michael Jackson was an adult and … it is supercilious to say he was unable to take care of his own affairs.”
Anschutz invited Jackson to a meeting at a Las Vegas villa in September 2008. Paul Gongaware, an AEG Live executive who knew Jackson, emailed colleagues a strategy memo. Wear casual clothes, he told them, “as MJ is distrustful of people in suits” and expect to talk “fluff” with “Mikey.”
The company was proposing a world tour that would net the cash-strapped star $132 million, according to the memo. “This is not a number that MJ will want to hear. He thinks he is so much bigger than that,” Gongaware warned. Talk in terms of gross receipts, he suggested.
There were doubters inside and outside the company. Dan Beckerman, AEG’s chief operating officer, sent Phillips, the chief executive of concert division AEG Live, a YouTube link to Jackson’s shaky 2001 MTV appearance and asked, “Can he pull this off?”
“With time and rehearsal,” Phillips wrote back.
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…. We cannot be forced into stopping this, which MJ will try to do because he is lazy and constantly changes his mind to fit his immediate wants.”
“He is locked. He has no choice … he signed a contract,” Gongaware wrote.
Publicly, AEG projected confidence. “The man is very sane, the man is very focused, the man is very healthy,” Leiweke assured a music industry symposium the day before the news conference.
“He is scared to death,” Phillips wrote to Leiweke.
In an interview, AEG’s attorney Putnam suggested Phillips had exaggerated in his emails and said Jackson’s behavior appeared to be a case of “nerves.”
Jackson arrived 90 minutes late for the news conference and his brief comments struck some of the 350 reporters gathered as disjointed and strange. Still, fan enthusiasm was undeniable: Demand for an initial 10 shows crashed Ticketmaster‘s servers.
In an interview, AEG’s lawyers noted that none of the emails referred to propofol and said no one at the company knew about Murray’s use of it. Jackson died before signing Murray’s contract, and the doctor was never paid by AEG.
“MJ is not in shape enough yet to sing this stuff live and dance at the same time,” the show’s musical director informed supervisors in an email. Jackson missed another week of rehearsals, and when he finally showed up June 19, he was too weak to perform.
“He was a basket case,” a production manager wrote. “Doubt is pervasive.”
“We have a real problem here,” Phillips wrote to Leiweke.
The show’s director, Kenny Ortega, told Phillips their star was not ready for the comeback and called for a psychiatric intervention: “There are strong signs of paranoia, anxiety and obsessive-like behavior. I think the very best thing we can do is get a top Psychiatrist in to evaluate him ASAP.
“It is like there are two people there. One (deep inside) trying to hold on to what he was and still can be and not wanting us to quit him, the other in this weakened and troubled state,” wrote Ortega, who had known Jackson for 20 years. “I believe we need professional guidance in this matter.”
Phillips resisted the request for immediate psychiatric intervention. “It is critical that neither you, me or anyone around this show become amateur psychiatrists or physicians,” Phillips wrote.
He added that Murray, “who I am gaining immense respect for as I get to deal with him more,” was confident the singer was ready.
“This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig so he [is] totally unbiased and ethical,” Phillips wrote.
In the recent interview, AEG’s lawyer said the company responded responsibly to concerns raised by Ortega and others by monitoring rehearsals and consulting Jackson and his physician.
“Michael and the doctor stressed that he was OK. They had it under control,” Putnam said.
Numerous emails show that at the same time, Lloyd’s of London was pressing AEG to schedule a complete medical examination for Jackson. The insurance company had to be convinced the singer was healthy before they would expand the policy to include illness and death, crucial coverage given reports from rehearsals.
That four-hour exam by Lloyd’s in London would include three doctors, heart monitoring and blood work. AEG’s insurance broker tried to persuade Lloyd’s to drop the physical, according to the email discussions by AEG officials. AEG suggested Murray could provide an oral recitation of Jackson’s recent medical history instead. Lloyd’s refused.
Since agreeing to the policy in May, Lloyd’s had sought additional information from AEG — medical records, details about Jackson’s daily fitness program and responses to media reports about his health.
“Always with no response,” a Lloyd’s underwriter wrote.
Within AEG, it was determined that Murray was the best hope to get the records, and in the final week of Jackson’s life, officials sent at least 10 emails reminding him to gather them.
Murray responded to the last of the requests June 25 in Jackson’s darkened bedroom suite, according to emails presented at the doctor’s criminal trial. He wrote that he had talked to Jackson and “Authorization was denied,”
A week later, AEG filed a claim for the entire $17.5-million insurance policy and said publicly that it was out more than $35 million.
But within a very short period, it became clear that Jackson’s demise, however terrible for those who loved him, was a commercial boon for his heirs and for AEG.
The celebratory documentary “This Is It,” which AEG co-produced alone grossed more than $260 million worldwide.
“Michael’s death is a terrible tragedy, but life must go on. AEG will make a fortune from merch sales, ticket retention, the touring exhibition and the film/dvd,” Phillips wrote to a concert business colleague in August, adding, “I still wish he was here!”