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Published March 06, 2003 FoxNews.com
There is chaos in the world of Michael Jackson. On Monday he fired his longtime adviser and attorney John Branca. By fax, of all things.
Branca has represented Jackson on and off since 1980 and is considered, with Frank DiLeo, one of the architects of the Thriller phenomenon back in 1983-84.
Replacing Branca is a combination of interesting people, starting with Las Vegas attorney David LeGrande.
LeGrande also represents F. Marc Schaffel, the controversial filmmaker whom Jackson used to sell his outtakes video to Fox Television last month. Schaffel has come under fire for being linked to gay pornography. But he has been involved with Jackson since October 2001, when he helped put together the charity video What More Can I Give.
Also now working with Jackson are a group of Germans, which is why Michael was in Berlin (where the baby-dangling incident occurred) a few months ago. Jackson has had connections for a while with two German businessmen, Dieter Wiesner and Udo Schaar, who themselves have had legal trouble in their own country.
For Branca, the sudden news came just as Jackson’s manager, Trudy Green, left the singer. Last week, Jackson also fired his longtime accountant, Barry Siegel, as well. (All parties declined to comment.)
“It’s a cleaning of the house,” said a source. But not a total cleaning.
Branca set up Jackson’s Sony/ATV Music Publishing deal concerning the Lennon-McCartney song catalogue and will receive 5 percent of the income from it.
Branca went to work for Jackson in 1980, right after the Off the Wall album was released. He renegotiated Jackson’s contract with Sony then, separating him from the Jackson Five, and went to oversee Thriller. He was let go in 1990 for three years, during which time Jackson was represented by Allen Grubman.
In 1993, Branca was brought back during the Chandler child-molestation case. In 1996, he was “backburnered” when Jackson let Korean businessman Myung Ho Lee take over. In 1998, Lee left and Branca came back into power. Lee is now suing Jackson for $14 million for breach of contract.
Yesterday I told you that neither Branca nor Trudy Green had any idea that Michael had made the deal with Martin Bashir and Granada Television for the documentary that rocked his world. Branca had been negotiating with Sony, according to sources, for Jackson’s at least-temporary return to Sony Music following Tommy Mottola’s ouster in January.
Jackson has two projects left at Sony, a greatest-hits package and a box set, each of which is supposed to contain two new songs. Branca also made a deal with CBS-TV for a new special (first reported here several months ago).
If Jackson delivered the new songs, promoted the albums and did the special, Sony would give him back the masters to his best-selling albums within a decade.
What’s next? Who knows. But sources close to the scene are concerned that Jackson has now ceded control of what’s left of his empire to an uncertain group of advisors.