Jacko's Financial Peril | Sopranos Get New Characters

Jacko's Financial Peril: Whose Default Is It?

Michael Jackson is now in big, big trouble with Bank of America.

I can tell you this: According to sources, Jackson's deal with B of A prohibits him from running up debt in the form of accounts payable beyond $3 million.

I am told that he has exceeded this amount to as much as $6 million. The penalty for that is default. And the penalty for default is mind-blowing.

The bank could conceivably turn around and sell Jackson's debt to the loan's guarantor, Sony Music.

Jackson — as stated before — owes Bank of America roughly $270 million.

His collateral is his 50 percent stake in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the company that includes a catalog of 251 Beatles songs as well as thousands of other compositions, including most of Bob Dylan's better-known songs and Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious." The company is valued at $1 billion.

Jackson's situation is precarious, but his response to the problem is what is especially curious.

For years, Bank of America's Jane Heller has kept his operation running with glue and rubber bands, doing her best to keep Jackson out of bankruptcy and default.

Regarding Jackson's situation, she said in this column on April 19, 2002: "I've kept [Michael] alive for 20 years. And it's not that the advice he gets is bad. It's him. He's his own worst enemy."

Now I'm told that Jackson is actually looking around for a white knight, and is hopeful another bank will assume his debt. The prospects for this are unlikely.

Jackson is heavily leveraged at his Neverland Valley Ranch. He has loans against his own music publishing company, MiJac, which includes his own hits and those of other acts such as Sly and the Family Stone.

Jackson also owes millions of dollars in legal fees to his defense team and has several pending lawsuits against him. That includes an ongoing and expensive custody battle with his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, over their two children. Rowe has not seen the children since 2003 and hasn't received alimony payments since last year.

Jackson is also facing a $4 million lawsuit from former associate Marc Schaffel, who has sought a lien on Neverland as well.

The other lawsuit Jackson faces, and this could be a doozy, would be from the family of his current accuser, should he be convicted of child molestation.

Although the mother of the accuser has claimed in court she has no intention of seeking reparations from him, Janet Arvizo has a history of filing civil suits and winning them -- as she did in her J.C. Penney/Tower Records case.

Additionally, her two sons have until age 18 to file their own suits.

All of this begs the question: Why doesn't Jackson simply accept what he's already been offered — which this column first reported — to end this financial nightmare? He would only part with half of his Sony/ATV holdings, would be free and clear of all debt at Neverland and with MiJac and would wind up with $10 million in cash.

Exclusive: 'Sopranos' Gets Some New Characters

I don't want to give too much away about "The Sopranos," since I love being surprised.

But here's a just a bit of what we can look forward to in the sixth and possibly final season of the best dramatic show on television.

It looks like Toni Kalem is out as Angie Bonpensiero, widow of Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore). The show has sent out a casting notice, I'm told, for a new actress to play the role.

That's too bad; I liked Kalem. But she just showed her first directing effort, "A Slipping-Down Life," at Sundance, and she probably wants to do more.

Angie's main feature, according to the casting office: She's "grating." If the casting office wants a suggestion, I could recommend a woman of about the same age in whose presence I've been for the last three weeks. They could "court" her. (I'm speaking in code.)

There are a bunch of new people who will populate the show's sixth season.

Ginny Sack (Denise Borino), wife of mob boss Johnny (my pal Vince Curatola) will get a wiseguy brother who owns a Lenscrafter franchise. His name will also be Anthony (that makes four in the show so far, if I'm counting correctly). He'll be modeled on Carlo, Connie's husband from "The Godfather."

Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese), for his part, will hire a slick new lawyer.

That's not all: We may see a little of Eugene Pontercorvo's family, too. Eugene (Robert Funaro), one of the late Ralph Cifaretto's (Joe Pantoliano) crew, will get a wife and two kids: a 16-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter.

And Janice Soprano (Aida Turturro) may have had a daughter with husband Bobby Bacal (Steve Schirripa) since we saw them last. There's talk that a 16-month-old baby girl is being sought to play the part.