The tangled web of Michael Jackson’s finances & John Branca




Part 1: How Jackson Nearly Lost His Prized Music Catalog
Part 2: A Music Superlawyer Goads Jackson Into “Thriller”
Part 3: How Jackson Snagged the Beatles’ Songs
Part 4: Fired, the Superlawyer Returns to Bail Jackson Out
Part 5:  A Superlawyer Returns, a Pop Icon Dies

A Wrap Series: The tangled web of Michael Jackson’s finances and his tumultuous 30 years of dealings with the super-lawyer who now rules his estate — the first of five parts


Part 1: How Jackson Nearly Lost His Prized Music Catalog

A Wrap Series: The tangled web of Michael Jackson’s finances and his tumultuous 30 years of dealings with the superlawyer who now rules his estate — the first of five parts

(This article has been updated to include a response from a representative for John Branca.)

No one said that ruling Michael Jackson’s inner circle would be a moonwalk.

Just a year and a half after his death, lawyer John G. Branca is about to oversee the release of a posthumous album on Dec. 14 under a new $250 million deal for the estate. And as a prelude, he has successfully renegotiated a massive $300-millon bank loan left by Jackson that was due this month, too.


But did Branca, who had a hand in nearly all of MJ’s most brilliant career and financial moves, always have his client’s best interests at heart? According to documents obtained by TheWrap, the lawyer tried to help along a deal that would have dispossessed Jackson of the music catalogue he held most dear — while making Branca considerably richer.

(A lawyer for Branca responds: “While the Goldman proposal might have divested Michael Jackson of his interest in the Beatles and MIJAC catalogues in the long run, it would have created a larger entity that increased the value of his interests. If sold, Branca’s fee would have gone to his firm, not directly into his pocket. Branca advised Jackson that he would be giving up too much control based on the proposal and Jackson vetoed the deal.”)


Branca has never embraced the limelight. But in a months-long investigation that included secret documents and two dozen interviews — one with Branca himself — TheWrap reveals the complicated relationship between the singer and the lawyer that Jackson would hire for the last time within a week of his death.


In that short, final tenure, Branca was left permanently in charge of one of the most important music legacies of our time.


Branca’s roller-coaster relationship with Jackson unfolds over 30 years of hiring and refiring.


It is punctuated by moments of brilliance, such as when the lawyer orchestrated Jackson’s purchase of the Beatles’ song catalogue, ATV Music, perhaps the most important deal of Jackson’s life.


But some might conclude that Branca is no hero at all. A proposal in 2003 that would have sold Jackson’s interests in the Beatles’ and Mijac catalogues to the investment bank Goldman Sachs would lead some to question Branca’s role in Jackson’s business affairs.


Either way, his importance in the constellation of Michael Jackson’s firmament cannot be dismissed. The release within days of Jackson’s first posthumous album comes on the heels of record-setting income of $275 million in the year since Jackson died. According to Forbes magazine, the sum topped the year’s list of entertainer’s posthumous earnings.


This summer, however, Branca became preoccupied with Jackson’s massive $300 million bank loan from the British banking giant Barclaysagainst the estate’s crown jewel — half interest in Sony/ATV Music Publishing.


At the core of Sony/ATV’s enviable collection of rights to songs by the likes of Elvis, Bob Dylan and Eminem is to be found the Beatles song catalog, a 20th century musical treasure that Branca famously arranged for Jackson once to own outright. Today, Sony/ATV, which Sony Corp. co-owns, is worth at least $1.6 billion, a valuation substantially attributable to the Beatles.

The due date for the mammoth loan loomed this month, and missing it might have meant a loosening of the estate’s grip on its half of Sony/ATV. But Branca beat the clock by months, arranging to refinance the loan in September through the Swiss financial services giant UBS.

Branca had a previous encounter with the songs and the debt. From 2003 to 2004, virtually the identical financial crisis — almost $300 million of debt, with the songs at stake — was met with a momentous initiative led not by Branca but by a power cast that included Wall Street-savvy Goldman Sachs, veteran music entrepreneur Charles Koppelman and a Florida entrepreneur dogged by mob suspicions, Alvin Malnik (pictured below, with Jackson).


A cache of confidential documents from the seven-year-old episode — a copy of which was provided by a member of the group — reveals an intriguing inside look at the far-reaching effort, which long has been an object of media fascination and Internet-based conspiracy theorists.


The documents, which lay bare new details while corroborating previously unconfirmed disclosures, range from trust materials and loan records to papers bearing on facets of Jackson’s dealings with Sony, where his music career was anchored.  As best can be determined, few, if any, outsiders have had access to the nearly 300-page paper trail.


In the documents, Goldman’s master financial alchemists began proposing a venture to position Jackson as “the Bill Gates of the music industry” and described how not only the $300 million debt might be whittled but also detailed how the beleaguered legend could walk away with perhaps $1.3 billion — with the Wall Street firm exiting even richer.

More to Read: Inside Secrets of the Goldman Proposal

But only if he would sell his interest in Sony/ATV and in Mijac, the catalogue of Jackson’s own hits. According to the secret documents, Goldman was prepared even to “drag” Jackson along into a deal to sell them.

As the proposal evolved during more than a year, its fundamental flaw — that Jackson all but surely would forfeit his songs — remained clearly obvious to Branca. More than anyone, Branca knew that owning the songs was one of his client Jackson’s great passions and that the singer worried intensely about them slipping from his grasp.

So why then had Branca worked so hard, as the secret files appear to indicate, for an outcome most feared by his client?

According to entrepreneur Malnik, Branca stood to collect $17 million from the Goldman dealings for a 5 percent interest that he held in Jackson’s stake in the Beatles’ catalog.

(A lawyer for Branca responds: “Branca was asked to review a proposal brought to Michael by others and gave advice to Jackson. The decision not to enter into the agreement was Michael Jackson’s based primarily on this. There were no secret files, and ultimately the Goldman proposal was never accepted.”)

In a July 2003 missive on his firm’s letterhead, Branca essentially put Goldman on notice that it ultimately must ensure Jackson’s ongoing obligations — including “direct payment of this firm’s 5%” — if the proposal progressed.

Alas, the Goldman deal, more than a year in the making, got no further than the paper on which it was written. Rather, it was scuttled by Jackson against a backdrop of behind-the-scenes hijinks that seemed to mirror his final sad decade, which roiled with scandals, a criminal trial, epic debt and an ever-rotating inner circle.

In a statement, Goldman Sachs confirmed its role, noting that its private equity arm was involved.

“Several years ago, GS Capital Partners engaged with Mr. Jackson’s advisers when they were trying to generate liquidity under difficult circumstances,” Goldman said. “At the time, we were broadly interested in acquiring music publishing assets, and this was one of many deals we looked at.”

The bank, which wouldn’t comment specifically on its planning to “drag” Jackson into a transaction, concluded: “We ultimately decided not to pursue the acquisition of these assets.”

As for Branca, by the time the deal collapsed, the superlawyer had been fired.

See Jackson’s letter to Branca: You’re fired.

Read: The Secret Probe That Got Branca Fired

It was not the first time. Jackson repeatedly fired Branca (pictured in 2009 after being named an estate co-administrator), whose firm Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie, Stiffelman, Cook, Johnson, Lande & Wolf is one of the entertainment industry’s most powerful.

Indeed, in June 2009, within a week of Jackson’s death, Branca — nominated in the singer’s will to be the steward of his estate — returned to the fold after a three-year break-up.

Six days after Jackson’s drug-fueled death — having spoken to him only once in three years – he, along with longtime Jackson family friend John McClain,  emerged as co-executor of the tragic icon’s extraordinary holdings.


John G. Branca is a kingmaker whose greatest creation well may be himself

Part 2: A Music Superlawyer Goads Jackson Into “Thriller”

John G. Branca’s greatest creation well may be himself.

As Jackson’s dealmaker, he became a prime member of a generational vanguard that would transform music legal practice.

And as Jackson’s trusted ally, he would convince the pop star to release the “Thriller” video over his client’s strong religious objections — to historic financial success.

For Branca, it’s all part of a charmed legal career that he hadn’t imagined.

Dressed in an immaculate black blazer, perfect white shirt and jeans, the super-lawyer steers his gleaming black Rolls Royce into the parking pavilion of Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie, Stiffelman, Cook, Johnson, Lande & Wolf, one of the entertainment industry’s most powerful firms.

Growing up in New York the son of an actress and of a New York State athletic commissioner, Branca seemed destined himself to be talent. At age five he began buying single records on vinyl. After relocating to Los Angeles with his mother, he founded a teen band. But he abandoned music in college, and in 1975 earned a UCLA law degree.

After a brief first job, the junior lawyer hired on at the firm of David Braun, the Branca of his day with such clients as Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and the Beach Boys.

Initially, Braun was unimpressed with Branca. The young lawyer only seemed interested in the business affairs of his uncle, Ralph Branca, the Brooklyn Dodger who tossed the pitch in 1951 for the home run “known as the shot heard around the world.”

But it was a professional acquaintance of Branca’s that led to Jackson’s introduction to Braun, who became the first lawyer, apparently, ever of Jackson’s, and not his father’s, choosing.

Shortly after Braun quit to run Polydor Records in 1978, Branca left to join the new — and future powerhouse — firm of Kenneth Ziffren, a dean of Hollywood dealmakers, bringing along Jackson and other clients.

“Michael liked John,” recalls Jackie Jackson, the eldest Jackson sibling. Says Braun: “John caught Michael at the moment when he was flowering. To John’s credit, he started cutting good deals.”

Branca joined the ranks of a movement started by Braun and others fought against the industry’s rampant exploitation of artists.

Says Gary Stiffelman, a Branca firm partner who started out as his chief lieutenant handling Jackson, “They brought discipline. They were much more determined advocates (for the artists).”

As such, Branca would build a career that made him a shoo-in Wikipedia entry, representing an often-cited 29 Rock Hall of Famers. He helped stage the intervention that saved the life of a drug-addled founder Brian Wilson. The Doors (his teen band had opened for the group on Sunset Strip) was a client, as was the estate of its leader, Jim Morrison. Eerily, he helped represent the estate of Jackson’s father-in-law, Elvis Presley, who also famously overdosed.

For the Rolling Stones, Branca sold sponsorship, TV and film rights for the 1989 Steel Wheels Tour as a mega-dollar single package, a novel approach at the time. And after extricating Carlos Santana from two labels, Branca placed him with Clive Davis’ Arista Records in 1997. The upshot: “Supernatural,” one of only two albums to win eight Grammys. The other: Jackson’s “Thriller.”

“John is a lawyer, but does perform a business function, and will try to get the very best deal for his client,” Weitzman said. “I’ve sat in rooms and smiled watching him do that, and said, God bless this guy.”

Undeniably, Jackson was the first and most magnificent showcase for the young lawyer’s talents. He played a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in the 1984 “Victory Tour,” the singer’s last with his brothers and reportedly the highest grossing at the time. He helped arrange Jackson’s first global solo outing, the “Bad Tour.” It made Guinness Book of World Records for grossing $125 million.

The idea for President Reagan to honor Michael at the White House for his philanthropy? That also was Branca’s.

But it was “Thriller,” the all-time biggest-selling record after its December 1992 release that ensconced Jackson in the history books. Part of “Thriller” lore is how Branca, who raised the $1 million for the grounding-breaking John Landis-directed video, manipulated the artist into releasing it, after he balked.

Fretting that the images might imply devil worship, Jackson, a Jehovah’s Witness, reckoned he’d lose his spot in heaven. Ad-libbing, Branca conjured a tall tale about how Bela Lugosi had pre-empted a similar concern with a disclaimer on “Dracula,” explaining that he was merely acting in the film.

The gullible entertainer relented, releasing the full-length version of the “Thriller” video with a disclaimer penned by Branca. And a week later, it had fueled sales of the album by another million.

With his earnings climbing in tandem, Jackson would hand Branca his checkbook to pull off a musical coup that may never been matched.




Put together by his superlawyer, John Branca, the bid, at $47.5 million, was the richest ever — with a few personal bonuses to sweeten the pot

Part 3: How Jackson Snagged the Beatles’ Songs

Forty-eight million in cash would get Michael Jackson only so far in his bid to possess a musical crown jewel.

The coup a quarter-century ago that would hand him ownership of the Beatles catalogue — one of the 20th century’s greatest bodies of songs — relied heavily on an invaluable intangible: superlawyer John Branca’s guile and chutzpah.

Today, Branca effectively controls Jackson’s estate — potentially the richest ever for a celebrity — in which the Beatles catalogue is the shiniest object.

In 1985, the Branca-engineered Beatles purchase would radically redefine the dimensions of Jackson’s legend. In a few years of adulthood and relative freedom from his family’s shadow, he towered as a creative force as evidenced by the historic “Thriller,” the worldwide “Bad Tour,” his illusionary “moonwalk” and the iconographic studded glove.

Possessing the Beatles, however, revealed that Jackson’s business instincts rivaled his remarkable artistry.

Why the Beatles didn’t own their catalogue in the first place was unfortunate. Seeking to thwart the British tax collector, John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the 1960s formed Northern Songs, a public company, as the repository for the songs they wrote. The move backfired in 1969 when impresario Sir Lew Grade bought control of it on the open market through one of his companies, ATV Music. Seventeen years later, Australian Robert Holmes à Court acquired Grade’s crumbling entertainment empire.

And, inevitably, Holmes à Court, a notable among the era’s unsentimental raiders and plunderers of corporations, would put all or parts of it, including the Beatles, on the auction block.

In September 1984, Branca alerted Jackson, mentioning that ATV, a name the entertainer didn’t even recognize, was available. “It includes a few things you might be interested in,” Branca had teased Jackson, according to a 1985 report in the Los Angeles Times. “Northern Songs … Yeah, Mike … the Beatles.”

On Nov. 20, the lawyer telexed Holmes à Court, with a $46-million offer and a meeting request.

Garry Stiffelman, a Branca firm partner who handled pivotal details, described the ensuing months of negotiating and jockeying “the long and winding road,” the Times reported. There was the globe-spanning ordeal of verifying the authenticity all 4,000 songs in the catalogue, not just the Beatles’ 251.

But mostly, it was the maddening antics of the seller, Holmes à Court, who repeatedly reneged on his word. In all, there were eight drafts of the contract, the Times noted. Holmes

à Court relished his reputation for tough dealing. “The Viet Cong didn’t play by the rules, and look what happened,” he once told Fortune magazine.

In May 1985, Jackson’s emissaries abandoned talks for about a month. Meanwhile, another bidder suddenly emerged — the team of Martin Bandier (now CEO of Sony/ATV) and Charles Koppelman, a veteran show business executive and investor who’s now chairman of Martha Stewart’s empire.

Their offer: $50 million … about $2 million more than Jackson’s.

Ironically, while Koppelman and Bandier had no idea that the world’s biggest megastar was in the running, Branca had sensitive intelligence on the rivals. He, for example, knew they were backed by MCA Music, then headed by Irving Azoff, now CEO of Live Nation. An old Branca acquaintance, the lawyer had hired Azoff in 1984 to help with the “Victory Tour,” Jackson’s last with his brothers.

So when Bandier and Koppelman thought they had the deal sewed up, Branca called on Azoff to pull his financing.

The two apparently were the last to know they’d been sucker punched.  On the flight to London to — they thought —  seal the deal, they spied Branca in a nearby seat.

“What are you doing in London,” Bandier asked him?

Replied Branca, “Just business.”

Not until the Bandier and Koppelman met with Holmes à Court, Bandier recalls, did they learn the disappointing news: “He said I’ve made a decision. I’m selling it to Michael Jackson.”

Indeed, Branca had left nothing to chance. The bid, at $47.5 million, was the richest ever paid by an individual for a catalogue, the Los Angeles Times reported. On top of the cash, Branca threw in a Jackson benefit concert for Holmes à Court’s favorite charity and pledged a lifetime of income from the Beatles’ classic, “Penny Lane,” to Holmes à Court’s daughter, Penny.

“Brilliant,” Bandier said this summer, recalling Branca’s move. “Charles and I couldn’t do the moonwalk.”

To this day, 25 years later, it’s still evident Branca and his law partners remain sensitive to Paul McCartney’s stinging accusation that his one-time friend Jackson had stabbed him in the back.

“Paul’s representatives were very aware of what was going on,” said Stiffelman, Branca’s law partner. “The part that always bothered me was the accusation that Michael stole it from under McCartney.”

Branca also had been careful to seek the blessing of Yoko Ono. She reportedly was thrilled that a corporation wouldn’t own the catalogue and hadn’t wanted the headache herself of teaming with McCartney for a joint bid.

When it was all over, Jackson gifted Branca with a Rolls Royce, the first of two he would give him.

So it was that at barely 30 years old in 1990, Jackson now was fabulously wealthy  — worth $300 million, according to biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, author of “Michael Jackson: The Magic and Madness.”

But as the 1990s dawned, a dark chapter of eccentricities, paranoia, debt, lawsuits and scandal loomed. Stunningly, 10 years later, he would be on the hook to one bank for $300 million, with his Beatles rights at stake and has relationship with Branca having turned into a soap opera




Branca was in, he was out, and he was in again. But the relationship would never be the same — over money

Part 4: Fired, the Superlawyer Returns to Bail Jackson Out

(This article has been updated to include a response from a representative for John Branca.)

In “Moonwalk,” his 1988 autobiography, Michael Jackson hardly mentions John Branca. The near invisibility was glaring, considering the lawyer’s place at the epicenter of Michael’s career.

In the preceding years, Branca had helped propel “Thriller” into the history books and engineered the coup that netted him the Beatles’ song catalogue. Within months of the publication of the book, Jackson would be the best man for Branca’s first marriage.

Then, two years later, Branca was gone — fired by Jackson in the first crack of a relationship that would continually crumble for the next two decades, until just days before the ill-fated entertainer’s death.

His jettisoning by Jackson, in 1990, was one of the more absorbing show business separations.

As chronicled in J. Randy Taraborrelli’s bestseller Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness”  — and an account Branca has never publicly disputed — the lawyer was a casualty of criss – crossing agendas, among Branca, then-Sony Music boss Walter Yetnikoff and, cast as antagonist, show business mogul David Geffen (above left, with Jackson and Madonna).

With Geffen — at least, as Branca and Taraborrelli paint him — you were either with him or not. Branca was not.

Michael, in fact, had welcomed Geffen into his life initially, though he’d later turn on him viciously. For years, Geffen had served on an informal committee advising Jackson on investments — including, though it’s not widely known, the Branca – spearheaded purchase of the Beatles catalogue.

“Michael changed lawyers because he wanted to — he felt John Branca was too close to Walter [Yetnikoff],” Geffen declared in “The Magic and the Madness.”

Jackson, as biographer Taraborrelli also discovered, had grown anxious over Branca’s representation of other mega-acts like the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. And, notably, the axe fell after Branca asked Jackson for a 5 percent interest in the Beatles catalogue, perhaps the entertainer’s most prized possession.

In any case, Jackson soon was surrounded by other high-powered attorneys, including Bert Fields and Allen Grubman — part of Geffen’s team, as Branca viewed them.

So Branca was out.

Until he wasn’t.

Three years later, Branca got a phone call. “Branca, it’s Michael. You think I should sell half of ATV Music for $75 million?”’

One of several lawyers was proposing just that, to raise cash, which Jackson was in dire need of. The child molestation scandal, which had exploded earlier that year, would ultimately cost him $20 million in a private settlement. He owed promoters a fortune after suspending a world tour. Neverland was draining cash. What’s more, he was addicted to prescription drugs.

Branca realized he had an opening to return to Jackson’s side. He’d come back and fix everything — but this time it would cost Jackson up front: 5 percent of ATV Music (the Beatles), as he had proposed before his firing.

The woeful Jackson assented.

But even though they would reunite, the old relationship was never to be again. Branca would now find himself to be just one more member in the rotating cast of characters in Jackson’s life.

And with Branca now owning the 5 percent stake, Jackson became paranoid that his lawyer would want him to sell his song rights.

On the other hand, Branca did see an ATV transaction with Sony as an answer to Jackson’s cash crisis. But instead of an outright sale, he proposed a merger of Sony’s music publishing operations and ATV.

Mickey Schulhof, the CEO of Sony Corp. of America at the time, was privately elated, one person close to the former executive recalls. He saw a merger as the first step toward Sony’s eventual full ownership of ATV. A brief visit once to Jackson’s Century City apartment — a fantasyland of overstuffed animals — had convince Schulhof that Sony’s troubled star someday would spiral toward the poor house and be forced to sell everything.

Thus, in 1995, Branca pulled off another coup: Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Jackson owned half of a much larger company, and pocketed a $150-million check from Sony. If Branca were entitled to 5 percent, his take totaled $7.5 million.

Sony/ATV’s repository of 750,000 songs, from Elvis Presley to Eminem to Bob Dylan, is the smallest of the four major publishers, behind EMI Music, Universal Music Group and Warner’s Music/Chappell.

Estimates of its value range from $1.6 to $2 billion, and in recent years it generated operating cash of $100 million to $130 million a year, according to the New York Times.The publishing income alone, which Sony and the Jackson estate divvy up, should acount for tens of millions a year in estate income — as it used to for Jackson.

Yet, amazingly, his financial woes would only worsen. By 2003, he owed $270 million alone to the Bank of America in two massive loans through MJ ATV Publishing Trust, which owned Michael’s Sony-ATV stake, and MJ Publishing Trust, which controlled Mijac, repository of Michael’s songs. If Jackson defaulted on either loan, he could be forced to sell the songs to Sony, with the bank collecting the proceeds.

It seemed Jackson again would have to call on Branca to extricate him from the corner into which he had painted himself. Or would he?

No. Jackson, in fact, would fire him yet again. Nor would the ambitious initiative led by Goldman Sachs halt his financial slide. In 2004, Jackson scuttled that plan just before surfacing with a new inner circle of members of Louis Farrahkah’s Nation of Islam.

To compound Jackson’s woes, he was dragged into a child molestation trial in 2005. Found innocent, he fled to Bahrain for a fresh start financed by a middle eastern royal, who later sued him as essentially a deadbeat.

Finally, Bank of America threw in the towel, selling the loan (and Beatles collateral) to Fortress investment, which charged Jackson double-digit interest rates. Utter disaster, however, was staved off only by a bailout arranged by Sony, which guaranteed a $300 million Barclay’s loan.

In 2006, Jackson’s and Branca’s on-again, off-again relationship hit a new low. Branca quit Michael this time in what, according to two top music industry executives familiar with the situation, was a broader dispute.

They suggest that Branca, Michael and Sony clashed over the lawyer’s 5 percent when it became a complication in Michael’s bail-out. The settlement: Branca sold it back for millions of dollars.

(A lawyer for Branca responds: “Branca’s fee was not an issue. Branca settled his equity in those assets in which he had an interest for much less then its fair market value.”)



In death, Michael Jackson once again is getting the most out of Branca, highlighted by a record-setting $275 million in first-year posthumous earnings

Part 5: A Superlawyer Returns, a Pop Icon Dies

[[At around 7 o’clock one evening during the third week of June 2009, John Branca arrived in Michael Jackson’s dressing room at L.A.’s Fabulous Forum, where rehearsals were under way for the performer’s “This Is It” concert. 

It was their first meeting in three years. They immediately hugged, before Branca handed Jackson a letter to be signed, formally rehiring the superlawyer.]] [[This blogger has relied on what was widely reported – We have discovered Michael was NOT at rehearsals that day so could not possibly have rehired Branca – It was beneficial for Randy Phillips of AEG to claim this as then he could release the movie he had been filming all along of the rehearsals – It was of course beneficial for Branca who produced a “Will” [if real] should have been given to Michael as demanded in 2003]

It was an abrupt reunion after a bitter split — and just days before the show business legend died.

It was also the culmination of a 30-year-odyssey of unmatched highs and darkest lows, during which Jackson had cultivated deep distrust for the lawyer. At least twice, he fired him.

For his part, Branca had grown weary of Jackson’s chaotic life of profligacy, questionable advisers, crushing debt and scandal. Finally, he quit.

“They hadn’t really spoken since 2006,” says CEO Randy Phillips of AEG Live, the promoter of Jackson’s “This Is It” concert series.  [[Randy is liar, Branca was never rehired after 2003]]

So how did Branca’s and Jackson’s epic relation come full circle, as if according to a Hollywood script?

In fact, Branca had begun to seek a return to the fold no sooner than Jackson wrapped up the press conference unveiling “This Is It” in early March 2009. The lawyer phoned Phillips. ‘“I’d do anything in the world to be involved,”’ Phillips remembers Branca saying. The AEG executive was noncommittal then.


Later, however, Phillips and Frank DiLeo, Jackson’s manager from the 1980s glory days, phoned Branca. DiLeo himself had only recently been invited back onto the brain trust, exactly two decades after Jackson fired him in 1989, a year before Branca was booted for the first time. [[Dileo was NOT rehired by Michael, another lie by Randy Phillips]]

By the time DiLeo returned, Jackson’s inner circle had shriveled practically to nothing — no lawyers or accountants, for example — with the July kickoff of “This Is It” just weeks away, DiLeo contended in an exclusive interview.

Only  Jackson’s then-manager, the “mysterious Dr. Tohme Tohme,” as the press sometimes described him, remained, DiLeo says. And soon Tohme Tohme’s status turned murky.

“Look, come back, it’s a little messed up,”’ said Jackson, as DiLeo remembers it.

Phillips, too, was anxious to have Branca return to the fold. According to a well-placed music industry leader briefed on the matter, the lawyer’s re-emergence appeared to lessen a potentially massive legal and financial predicament for AEG Live and Phillips.

Phillips was concerned that the company could be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars –productions costs, guarantees, ticket sales and more — if the fragile Jackson were unable to perform his 50-date London run, according to the music industry leader. Phillips was said to be worried that a court might void AEG’s contract with the singer due to a conflict of interest — Jackson and AEG were sharing the same lawyer, Joel Katz, a well-known music attorney, and his gobal firm Greenburg Taurig. [[Yes Phillips was in dire straits, he HAD to release a “movie, thus the lies re Branca+Dileo.”]]

“I felt another attorney that had nothing to do with my company” was prudent, Phillips acknowledged in an exclusive interview. “I felt it was important for Michael.” He added: “That was one reason I was supportive” of Branca’s return.


In an interview, Katz said that he first heard the idea of luring Branca back from DiLeo, who took on the role of intermediary between the lawyer and Jackson. Would Branca be open to “talk to Michael about some things?” DiLeo said he asked the lawyer in an early phone call.

In a follow-up call, DiLeo says he urged Branca, “Now we need to be able to work together” — meaning, no more drama, please!  And finally, he says he told the lawyer, “Michael wants you to start thinking about some ideas. Don’t just come in and say hi to him.”

On the morning of the reunion, DiLeo reminded Jackson, “Don’t forget, John’s coming today.”

Phillips was in Jackson’s dressing room at the Forum for the reunion. After the hug and official signatures that evening, Branca began rattling off ideas, having honed them over the previous week. Some involved the concert. But DiLeo and Phillips say Branca’s primary responsibility was elsewhere.

“There was a serious aspiration to make a movie,” says Phillips. “Michael wanted to finish a movie called ‘Ghost’ … and a 3D version of Thriller.’ He wanted John to do the film financing and DVD deal.” Phillips said AEG had planned to contribute cash for developing projects.

With the due date on a $300 million debt to Barclays on the distant horizon, Jackson also wanted Branca in Sony’s face about “restructuring the loan because Sony had the loan guarantees,” Phillips said, adding that he was thrilled for Michael to have a corner man “who knew where all the bodies were buried.”

After the dressing-room meeting, Jackson headed off apparently to his intravenous Propafol drip and Branca to a Mexican vacation, where a few days later, on June 25, his phone rang with Katz on the line. Jackson had just died after Dr. Conrad Murray, his private physician, administered the drug.

“Does anyone have a will,” Katz wondered?

“I have one,” he says Branca answered. “If it’s valid.”

It was, in fact, the will that installed Branca, along with longtime Jackson family friend John McClain,  as co-executor of the Jackson estate.

As attempts by Michael’s father Joe to oust him continue to fail, Branca is firmly ensconced in control of all of Jackson’s earthly goods, with the half-interest in Sony/ATV as the centerpiece — the prized legacy that the entertainment icon left to his three children, mother Katherine and charities.

In death, Jackson once again is getting the most out of Branca, highlighted by the late entertainer’s record-setting $275 million in first-year posthumous earnings. Branca again is collecting his 5 percent cut off the top of entertainment-related revenue —  a stream of income that will continue for years.

And, finally, the King of Pop and the kingmaker have achieved lasting peace.

[[Michael Jackson lawyer at the time was Peter Lopez who had a lot to say about these crooks but suddenly turned up dead, shot in the heard, oh but that was a suicide – i call it BULLSHIT!]]


How Michael Jackson Nearly Lost His Prized Music Catalog



This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.