Michael Jackson is just hours dead and days away from being buried, but plenty of questions are being asked.
One of them is: did he leave a will? And either way, who gets the Beatles catalog?
Jackson died nearly $400 million in debt, with three children and two mortgages. And all of it is hinged to his 50% ownership in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the company that contains the catalog of 251 Lennon and McCartney songs from “Yesterday” to “Give Peace a Chance.”
Sony Music has the right of first refusal to buy Jackson’s half of the company. To settle his estate, whoever the trustee and executor are may eventually be forced to make that sale.
Jackson owes HSBC and Barclays Bank over $320 million secured by that asset.
Then there’s the case of Neverland. Colony Capital LLC has the note on the property. It’s unclear how much their refinancing of Neverland gave to Jackson, but it could have been around $25 million over the $23 million on the ranch. It’s what Jackson was living on for cash in the last year. Neverland, now, will be sold.
Jackson has one other asset, his MiJac Music Publishing, which contains his own songs, and those of artists like Sly and the Family Stone.
Of course, there’s also the issue of what, if anything, he’s owed by AEG Live, the company for whom he was supposed to perform 50 concerts. AEG had to insure the shows itself because no one else would do it.
There’s also an outstanding and unresolved problem concerning Jackson’s personal belongings from Neverland. They are currently in storage after last April’s aborted auction. Jackson’s ex manager,’Tohme Tohme, paid off Julien’s Auctions and took everything. Jackson’s estate may have to sue to get it all back. Tohme currently has the key and access to the material — possibly several hundred million dollars’ worth.
And that’s just the beginning. But the first order of business will be finding a valid will. Right now, sources I’ve spoken with aren’t sure who has that, or when it was last updated, or what it reflects. If Jackson’s estate is not in proper order, expect a doozy of a fight.