Home Celebrity Michael Jackson: Happy Birthday, But Remember the Time Without Nostalgia

I just saw a Tweet saying Michael Jackson– remember what a good business man he was. Huh? The smartest thing Michael Jackson ever did was tell John Branca that the Beatles’ catalog was for sale. That was it. Michael lived on that catalog for 25 years, long after his own money had run out due to flagrant spending on stuff that was mostly crap: worthless expensive souvenirs from Las Vegas vendors, paintings of himself at the Last Supper. Jewelry for Elizabeth Taylor so she’d come to his 30th anniversary show. One million dollars cash to get Marlon Brando to appear on stage at the same concert.

Michael didn’t want to work. It took years to get the mediocre “Invincible” album together. It had already been 6 or 7 years since he’d put out a new record when “Invincible” was released in 2001. The album, you don’t want to remember this, was not a hit. “You Rock My World” was a modest success compared to Jackson’s previous efforts.

He wouldn’t tour. By 2001, he’d been off the circuit for some time. He didn’t tour for “Invincible.” He made one appearance–at the Apollo, for the Democratic National Committee–in 2002. I was there. I saw him live. http://www.foxnews.com/story/2002/04/25/jacko-plays-apollo/.

It was a so-so effort. It was also the last time he performed live. He knew he needed money. He burned through it day and night.  Rome was burning and Michael fiddled. Managers came and went with schemes, all of which wound up in lawsuits that cost more legal fees. He made terrible investments. Roll call: Hollywoodticket.com, Dieter Wiesner, Myung Ho Lee, Marcel Avram, Shumley Boteach.

Jackson lived like the money from “Thriller” was still coming in. It wasn’t. By the time he was arrested in 2003, and stood trial in 2005, the finances were vanishing. He called his friend Ron Burkle from the men’s room in the Santa Maria courthouse and offered to sell him everything, begged for help. Burkle, who was really a friend, declined.

I say all this because, let’s get real. Michael Jackson has only made money post-death because he was not an obstacle to prudent moves. With Michael out the way, his executors were able to right the ship. If Michael Jackson hadn’t died: he would have played the London shows, cancelled some feigning illness, and spent whatever money was made as quickly as it came in. That’s the truth. So let’s get a grip.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,187452,00.html

Of course, he was a musical genius. He was a dancing fool. He was lovely to his kids. His fans adored him. His death is a tragedy. But I can see the sepia tint washing over his portrait now. Remember: at one point, Neverland and the Encino house shut down, employees who need the money to live on were not being paid. And Michael Jackson did nothing, Nada. He was human. And he was not a good businessman.

26 replies to this post
  1. No mention of all the WORLDWIDE humanitarian efforts done, in honor of this mans birthday..,???….
    Just some random tweet,,,,,,???????????
    Talk about , ugly on the inside., .
    BTW in Frank Cascio book , he said MJ said,,,the INVINCIBLE album is ahead of its time and wont be appreciated for at least ten years after its release
    I think it is a great album
    Please list the worldwide humanitarian efforts made by you , when your birthday rolls around pft

  2. Was this really necessary, Friedman? Was it really necessary to release this venom on Michael’s birthday when millions all over the world are remembering him for his genius, generosity and gentleness of spirit. You can wallow all day in Michael’s mistakes and missteps but you will never succeed in turning those that love him against him. Long after you and your malicious tripe are gone, people will still remember, admire and be inspired by Michael Jackson. And for my money, I’ll wait for ZOG’s book to get the definitive analysis on MJ’s business acumen. You’re just sound like a bitter old man and hardly a credible financial analyst. I don’t know who yanked your chain to write such a mean spirited rant. Maybe it was Shmuley Boteach for misspelling his name….

    And, FTR, kudos to all of the above commenters – with the exception of a couple – for your insightful and articulate attempts to enlighten Mr Friedman and defend Michael.

  3. Was this really necessary, Friedman? Was it really necessary to release this venom on Michael’s birthday when millions all over the world are remembering him for his genius, generosity and gentleness of spirit. You can wallow all day in Michael’s mistakes and missteps but you will never succeed in turning those that love him against him. Long after you and your malicious tripe are gone, people will still remember, admire and be inspired by Michael Jackson. And for my money, I’ll wait for ZOG’s book to get the definitive analysis on MJ’s business acumen. You’re just sound like a bitter old man and hardly a credible financial analyst. I don’t know who yanked your chain to write such a mean spirited rant. Maybe it was Shmuley Boteach for misspelling his name….

    And, FTR, kudos to all of the above commenters – with the exception of a couple – for your insightful and articulate attempts to enlighten Mr Friedman and defend Michael.

  4. P.S. Famed businessman Donald Trump found himself in deep debt at one time if I recall; perhaps a more fitting comparison would be Walt Disney. Seems as though Walt went through cycles of debt/bankruptcy while building his empire. Mr. Disney lives on in his legacy of entertainment, just as Jackson’s will for generations to come…when, just maybe, his up and downs with the cash issue is long forgotten and disregarded.

  5. Haters just can’t help hating when it comes to Michael Jackson but all the thinly cloaked attempts to minimize and belittle him in the world will never erase the FACT that he was and still is the most creative, original and talented entertainer the modern world has ever known. Mediocre hack writers like you are a dime a dozen. You can publish your rubbish until the cows come home but you will never diminish the legacy of the great King Mr. Michael Jackson.

  6. Friedman has both criticized and defended Jackson over the years. However, it’s pretty low to print this column on Jackson’s birthday — both slapping the dead guy and millions around the world who are celebrating his life and considerable achievements (whatever Friedman may think of them). But, since there are so few comments here, we can safely assume that the celebrations continue unabated and unaware of this column which will surely sink without trace in due course –along with the author. It’s also presumptuous (as media often is) to assume that Jackson fans are a monolithic group, like the Borg Collective, incapable of independent thought. The press viewed Jackson’s life as one long dismemberment –focusing on the bits and pieces that generated the most profitable controversy and spin. Four years after his death, the press has switched from autopsy mode to that of eternal exhumation — but still focusing on the ‘juicy’ bits of lore. Yet, it appears the public may be gradually moving on to see Jackson as ONE whole person — artist who envisioned a world healed without hate, and mortal man who could be blind to the dangers forming beside him. In any case, the definitive words on Michael Jackson have yet to be written — and I’m confident that they will not be written by the tabloid press.

  7. I think there’s a lot of truth to Friedman’s article although his writing style comes across as mean spirited. Friedman could have saved this “birthday” piece for another time. Near the end of his life, Michael trusted no one but that didn’t happen overnight. If payments weren’t made to employees or business partners, I would surmise Michael wasn’t personally in charge of writing checks, that task falling to yet another mismanager. His own biological family were apparenly present in his life only to offer support at court hearings, too little, too late, e.g., the current AEG civil suit. What’s the difference between Michael living off his lifetime royalty income (NOT touring) and Joe Blow living off his stock market investments? Difference is Joe Blow is considered smart businessman, Michael Jackson gets the “lazy” rep for not wanting to put his body through further torturous touring as he approached his middle years. In the end it’s his music, charisma, philanthropy and desire to “fix” our planetary woes for which Michael will be remembered. And long after those with heightened business acumen have been forgotten.

  8. Where is my comment? Why did my comment not go through?
    Is it because you don’t want people to know you’re best friends with Branca? Is it because that’s where your check comes from? Living off of Michael Jackson’s hard earned money, using his name for your own profit huh?
    You disgust me Roger!

  9. Well, first of all ‘Invincible’ album is NOT a mediocre! Have you really listen all the songs of the album??? They are great! Second, I wonder who is R.Friedman to comment how Michael Jackson spent his own money??? I think he has no idea how hard MJ earned those money! And you know what? MJ didn’t love money. He donated a loooooot of them to charities because his heart was bigger than any amount of money. And of course MJ could spent his money in any way he wanted. And I think a good businessman is when someone earns a lot of money. And MJ did this!!!
    P.S. you have a point of view, of what would happen if MJ hadn’t died???? O.o

  10. Rodger Friedman is a lying dog for the estate working for Branca! This article is a disgrace and disgusting! Michael Jackson was not broke and he was not lazy as this crap writing suggests. He was smart and protect his money and assets from greedy fools like the ones running the estate right now! That is why Neverland is in good hands by Colony Capital, Michael Jackson was very smart. These people who continue their little mouth pieces & lies on MJ will soon be exposed for who they really are.

    Also Rodger Friedman has never been any kind of friend to Michael. He trashed Michael’s good name when he was here. These people just come out of the woodwork looking for money and attention off of Michael. Sooner or later all the truth will be revealed and their crimes will be brought to light. They can not hide much longer.

    To Michael & The Jackson family, so much love & respect to you, God bless all of you!!!!!
    The estate will not get away with their crimes!!!!

  11. Stacy, the article was a 6 out of 10. The reason is because there is no mention of all the money Michael lost due to his charitable generosity.

  12. Here’s the thing- hundreds of years from now people are going to still be talking about Michael Jackson and celebrating his life and the legacy he left behind. Can we say the same for you, Roger Friedman?

  13. Gotta give MJ props…we’re still analyzing and judging his life 4 years after he left. Do believe I will also wait for Mr. Greenburg’s book next summer. Expect a fair, balanced account of Jackson’s successes and foibles in the apparently very interesting financial matters of his life.

  14. I think that’s a little harsh Mr Friedman – you have to remember that Michael Jackson was working in the industry from as young as 5 – he and his brothers working the circuit in clubs and bars most nights of the week. In his hey-day he has been described as a tireless perfectionist who consistently worked to be the best at what he did. By the time he reached his 40’s he was entitled to slow down. The acquisition of the ATV and other music catalogs permitted that.

    Your description of Invincible as mediocre is subjective and not shared by everyone – I don’t think you can call an album which sold over 6 million copies in 2 years “not a hit” – even if low by King of Pop standards. Jackson was in dispute with Sony at that time over the licences to the masters of his previous albums and Sony’s enthusiasm over promoting Invincible was notable by it’s absence. As for touring, Jackson knew the down side – lack of sleep and months on the road away from his home and kids was not an option for him after so many years of record-breaking (and back-breaking) shows on the road. Who can blame him for that?

    Some of what you say is true – the over-spending and self-indulgence – but this was a child thrust into an adult world with little or no guidance, no opportunity to learn by example and certainly no-one to say “stop”? Let’s not forget he gave considerable amounts to charities and worthy individuals, as well as continually having to finance legal and litigation costs as the world went “let’s sue Michael Jackson” crazy. As his fortune grew his finances were often controlled by people he perhaps naively trusted, but there was some business savvy behind the tabloid image of weirdness and excess. Zack O’Malley Greenberg has done a considerable amount of research for a book he is preparing on Jackson’s business acumen, Quote: “And over and over, many of my sources—in some cases, lawyers who ended up on the opposite side of the table from Jackson—kept telling me that much of Jackson’s posthumous success had to do with smart business decisions he made early in his career.”

    Jackson in the 2000’s wasn’t perfect by any means, but he was not lazy, not dumb and certainly not washed-up.

  15. Friedman – you got some serious issues coming up. Get over it – were you privy to hang out in Micheal’s day to day life? So you are saying thank goodness Micheal died – or got out of the way so the “real” business men could take over making money which is all Michael was good for? Yep many wish Micheal was still here because they don’t have someone to rip apart for being different. I have no doubt Micheal, like many humans, dropped the ball at times when it came to financial management, but I’m also pretty sure that he was surrounded by a non-stop circus of managers, etc. who set out to pad their pockets and screw over Micheal. How convenient everything got cleared up after he died – how convenient to blame Micheal – yea Roger it’s not like you and your gossip mongering, viscious, paid off by the powers that be media had any blame in anything. So how much did you make off of this piece? You got someone to manage your money?

  16. I’m not one to deny the sometimes very, very bad decisions and choices Michael has made in his life. RF has valid points in his post. Can’t deny that.

    But what I don’t agree on, is that Invicible was a mediocre album. There are brilliant songs on the cd. The hit song You Rock My World is not even the best of them. Break Of Dawn, Butterflies, Whatever Happens, 2000 Watts, Threatened… great songs. The album was a bit too long though.

    Michael didn’t get any decent promotion from Sony. And Sony pulled the plug on the album because of it’s conflict between Michael and Tommy Mottola.

    Saying the Invincible album was not a hit, is simply not true:
    Invincible debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album’s chart moving more than 366,000 units in one week. It also hit No.1 in 12 other countries around the world. By early 2002 Invincible had already sold more than 6 million copies, becoming Jackson’s fastest selling album ever (yes, it sold faster than ‘Thriller’). Invincible has, to date, sold more than 13 million copies worldwide.

    Mr. Friedman, you have valid points, but you don’t have all of your facts straight. Furthermore, there’s a time and place for everything. And being a sour grape at a day meant to celebrate Michael the musician, the human being, the icon, is bad timing to say the least.

  17. What’s \written has a lot of truth in it, as a loyal fan, I can admit and own that. Why is it that so many journalists, writers and bloggers sound so mean when it comes to MJ? Why not give MJ full credit for example, for his decision to by the Beatles catalog, instead of his lawyer, John Branca. BTW, didn’t Michael hire Mr. Branca. Good business people have the good sense to surround themselves with smart people.

    RIP MJ; Missing you.

  18. I don’t generally agree with Roger but this time he was spot-on. MJ was nowhere near what he is being made out to be … ostensibly to sell more merchandise. After all, no one wants to buy an ignorant, ungrateful and accused pedophile’s memories.

  19. Seems to me you expect a lot of a very talented human being. Perfection was not claimed by Michael Jackson so far as I know. His amazing success meant that his mistakes were also on an amazing scale, but he earned that through hard work. His generosity was also off the charts and he made more of a positive impact on the world than dozens of other entertainers. Also, the level of betrayal he was forced to withstand was soul-killing and turned his focus away from what he did best. His success grew beyond his capability to manage it without people he felt he could trust. The subject is very complex, Roger, and you trivialize by oversimplifying.

  20. I think it was not necessary to write a such a mean-spirited piece like this. It is pure speculation that Michael Jackson would not have “righted” his ship especially since he had hired Branca again as his lawyer prior to his death. Jackson had every right to spend his hard earned money on anything that he wanted. So what if he lived on his investments in song copyrights (and not just the Lennon and McCartney songs) which included his own? They have paid off handsomely. He worked for over 40 years of his life. His own creativity, work ethic (despite what is said here), and attention to detail also paid off in huge sales that allowed him to live the way he wanted. He had no obligation to work at all and he certainly earned that right. He worked half a lifetime before his 30th birthday as much as most of us work our entire life. He had debts with plenty of assets to back it up. I will wait for the Forbes writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s upcoming book on Michael Jackson’s finances. Not sure my comment will stay here but I had to try.

  21. This is certainly one of Roger’s best and most insightful pieces. Unfortunately, many of the fans will not be able to handle the hard facts Roger laid out. But, great piece and not because I think it trashes Michael. It’s because it’s the truth and I’ll say it again, I’m one of millions who wish Michael was still here.

Leave a Reply

Print This Post Print This Post