Today’s article in The Los Angeles Times about Michael Jackson contained some of the worst reporting I’ve ever seen.
It was if the reporters just refused to do any research. Instead, they muddled a bunch of disparate facts. Let’s not let this story stand as the record for anything, OK?
I don’t know how they could have screwed up so much about Colony Capital LLC’s involvement with Jackson.
For one thing, Colony Capital and its chief, Thomas Barrack, only have the note on Neverland. They never had anything to do with Jackson’s main loans against his 50% ownership in Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Those loans were sold by Fortress Investment Group to a consortium of Barclays, HSBC, and Sony Music in 2007.
I don’t know if Barrack ever called his ‘old friend’Philip Anschutz about Jackson. But the truth is: AEG Live’s Randy Phillips tried to get Jackson to agree to perform at the O2 Arena in London as early as December 2007, when I reported it. That was at least a year before Colony and Barrack had anything to do with Jackson.
Barrack makes it sound like Jackson was living in a hovel in Las Vegas when he arrived and ‘saved’ him. Jackson was living in an expensive rental home at the time. He could have moved at any time back to Neverland, or to his parents’ home in Encino, if he didn’t like it.
The L.A. Times reporters obviously have done no research about Jackson’s newly former manager, Tohme Tohme. He is not a doctor. There is no record anywhere of him having been one. He told me directly that he is not ‘currently’ a licensed physician.
The L.A. Times reporters deftly stepped around Tohme’s assertion, on his website, that he’s an ambassador at large to the country of Senegal. The Senegalese U.S. embassy said to this reporter that they have no knowledge of him whatsoever.
There’s more about Tohme: Jackson blames him for the Julien’s Auctions debacle of this past winter, in which all of the Neverland possessions including its front gates were going to be sold to strangers. In the end, Jackson and Tohme were going to lose a court case with Julien’s.
Tohme came in with enough money at the 11th hour to stop the auction. But where he got the money remains a mystery, and who now has the key to the storage spaces is also up in the air.
Colony Capital’s interest in Jackson remains solely about Neverland, and the money they’ve paid to finance it. They hold the note. That’s it. They have simply nothing to do with Jackson’s concerts in London. In 2008, when Fortress called the note on Neverland, it was almost sold at auction. Colony Capital stepped in at that time. They advanced Jackson several million dollars at the time as part of the refinancing.
The L.A. Times reporters seem to think that John Branca helped Michael to buy a 50% stake in the Beatles catalog. In fact: Branca and Jackson bought ATV Music, which contained the Beatles catalog. They merged it with Sony’s music publishing division a few years later because Jackson needed cash. The new deal gave him $90 million and a half-ownership in the new entity, called Sony ATV Music Publishing. Jackson now has loans nearing $400 million secured by his position in that company.
What the L.A. Times doesn’t seem to get: Jackson currently has no official manager or entertainment lawyer. Tohme has been cut off from access to the pop star. Also apparently out is Peter Lopez, the lawyer who did deals for Jackson for the last year. Arfaq Hussain, who the article notes was jailed for four months, is simply assisting the production in London. Jackson, as of now, still has no home rented for his stay. Nothing has met with his approval.
The L.A. Times took a turn at trying to sort out a lot of material that I’ve reported on extensively. What they didn’t grasp is that the yawning gap between Jackson and solvency grows every day, that the only thing that keeps him afloat is that 50% ownership in Sony ATV, and that no matter what he makes from the O2 shows, whether he does one, two, 50, or 100, he is capable of spending as fast as it comes in.