Santa Barbara Assistant District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss is wrong about Michael Jackson's finances. He is not near bankruptcy. But he is broke.
Auchincloss said in a court motion Friday that Jackson is on the verge of bankruptcy, and that his whole universe could explode in December 2005. More importantly, he said that in February 2003 Jackson took his accuser's family hostage for image control because he was worried about the effect of their state.
Auchincloss is wrong. True, Jackson is cash-poor broke right now. As I've reported all week, the operating accounts for Neverland are empty. Jackson has had trouble meeting his payroll. He owes local contractors and vendors money in the Los Olivos area. He's well known for not paying bills on time.
On the other hand: A deal awaits him that clears up his $275 million debt to Bank of America, leaves him with a substantial percentage interest in Sony/ATV Music Publishing and frees up collateral of $100 million in cash. The mortgage on Neverland would be removed, and Jackson would have a $7 to $8 million annual income. If Mr. Auchincloss thinks that's not enough money to live on, he should double-check his own household budgets.
The deal to bail Jackson out is pretty much written and waiting for Michael to execute it. Charles Koppelman (now CEO of Martha Stewart's company) and longtime Jackson adviser John Branca are its architects. I always refer to them as Jackson's "permanent government" because they're the ones who've kept him from the fate Auchincloss describes.
It's just up to Michael to sign. "The deal is just about ready to go," says a source.
As for Jackson's motives in February 2003: His then German managers, Dieter Wiesner and Ronald Konitzer, may indeed have felt that the bad publicity would harm several side deals they were putting together. But Jackson's overall financial picture — dependent on the Sony sale — would not have been harmed by it any more than any other bizarre Jacko revelation of the last decade.
But Jackson's own attorney, Robert Sanger, is wrong too.
Sanger said in court Friday that Woody Allen's 1992 scandal didn't hurt his career. This is incorrect, Mr. Sanger. Allen's mishegos with Mia Farrow and her adopted daughter, Soon Yi Previn, contributed to the steady decline of Allen's box office. Immediately after the scandal he had three hits: "Mighty Aphrodite," "Bullets Over Broadway" and "Manhattan Murder Mystery."
But all his subsequent releases have been huge financial flops, and his audience has eroded tremendously in the last few years. "Celebrity," "Anything Else," "Hollywood Ending," "Small Time Crooks," etc., have sent Allen into a tailspin. Only now, this spring, there's a chance he will bounce back with "Melinda and Melinda." But Allen's 1992 scandal, rightly or wrongly, dogs him.
If Sanger thinks that Michael Jackson's decade-old problems with child molestation haven't hurt him, then he's living with Jackson in a fool's paradise. Jackson's "Invincible" album sold 2 million copies in the U.S. in 2001-2002. That's a far cry from the halcyon days of "Thriller," "Bad," and "Dangerous." All three were released before the 1993 Chandler scandal broke. After that, HIStory and Blood on the Dance Floor were colossal financial failures.
From Saturday Night Live to Eminem, Jackson has been lampooned incessantly as a possible pedophile and a freak with an inappropriate interest in young boys. He's tried to wish away the bad news by marrying twice. But the public is not stupid, and his matrimonial adventures — from "fathering" children to kissing Lisa Marie Presley at the MTV Music Awards — have come off as hollow PR stunts.