I appreciate the testimony of Michael Jackson’s eldest son, Prince. Today he testified that Michael told him AEG executives “were trying to kill him.” You can tell Prince is a good kid. But he came into the Jackson story in late chapters. Prince, your father thought everyone was trying to kill him. The AEG people were just the latest. Michael distrusted just about everyone around him. Anyone with whom he found himself in a contractual situation was considered an enemy. Any authority figure was “trying to kill him.”
Let’s just go back to the 2001, after “Invincible” came out. Jackson was convinced Tommy Mottola was the devil, a racist who had it in for him. Mottola, the head of SonyMusic then, was no picnic, let’s face it. But he’d waited seven years for a Michael Jackson album. Jackson stole the “Invincible” tapes and wouldn’t release them until Mottola secured him a cameo in “Men in Black II.” Then Michael wanted to undercut “Invincible” with a separate charity single and Mottola refused.
By 2003, Jackson had turned over his finances and management to Miami lawyer Al Malnik and veteran music exec Charles Koppleman. They saved him at a moment when he almost went under financially. When Jackson was arrested in November 2003, he installed the Nation of Islam and never spoke to Malnik or Koppelman again. He told friends that he thought they were trying to steal the Beatles catalog from him.
Jackson was a musical genius, but he was disloyal and capricious. In 2005 he allowed his longtime press aide Bob Jones be dismissed without warning or severance. Now he was the enemy.
When the trial was over, Jackson accepted the hospitality of Prince Abdullah of Bahrain, who bankrolled a long visit. Michael signed a contract with the Prince and announced a record label. He also took $7 million in cash as an advance. When he got the money, he bolted Bahrain and left the Prince high and dry.
Were AEG executives trying to “kill” him? No. Jackson was in financial peril after his trial but he refused to work or make any money. Several times he let his parents’ home go into foreclosure. The mortgage was held for a while by a dentist and a group of investors. Jackson was deeply in debt, had no cash. He let Neverland sink into red ink until it was taken over by Colony Capital.
Jackson accepted the offer from AEG because, like other human beings, he needed to generate income. No one put a gun to his head. And if anyone wanted him alive, it was AEG and Randy Phillips. They just had no idea what he was up to when they weren’t looking.
So Prince made for good theater, and he’s a good son in a tragic situation. But let’s not overdo it. Michael Jackson was the captain of his own ship.