Michael Jackson’s singing a new song this morning and it’s not “Billie Jean.” It’s “Take Some Insurance Out on Me Baby.”
Jackson — who sources insist has secretly returned to the U.S. from Bahrain — is in bigger trouble than he was in even last year when he stood trial for child molestation.
And his financial problems are different and more perilous than just what to do about the Beatles catalog.
This time, Jackson has just four days to come up with just under half a million dollars — or else.
California labor officials used Jackson’s lack of insurance for his staff as the reason for shutting down his ranch. The 69 employees there have not been paid since December and they no longer have health insurance or workmen’s compensation.
But those very same labor officials may not realize something else: Jackson’s payroll covers more than just the folks at Neverland. It extends to everyone who works at his parents’ home in Encino, which is referred to as Hayvenhurst, as well as miscellaneous employees like his own assistant, Evvy Tavasci.
Not one of those people has been paid, either. And they don’t have workmen’s comp or health insurance. This extends to the maids and cooks at Hayvenhurst, gardeners, etc.
If Jackson is indeed back in Encino — as his associates have insisted to me for the last couple of days — he will have to explain their new precarious situation to them.
According to the way the California Department of Labor worked in the Neverland case, this would mean that starting today, Michael’s mother Katherine would have to make her own meals and do her own laundry. That’s because technically, the Hayvenhurst staff would be barred from working there as well.
And things are worse than just that: in a November 2005 deposition for a $4 million lawsuit brought by Jackson associate Marc Schaffel against the singer, Jackson’s accountant Alan Whitman testified that Jackson has not had commercial insurance of any kind since approximately April 2005.
He doesn’t carry an umbrella policy (although he does like someone to carry an umbrella for him when he walks in the sun). None of the so-called artwork or memorabilia at the house is covered either, meaning Jackson is vulnerable to just about any kind of disaster like fire or burglary at this point.
Meanwhile, Jackson has until Tuesday to pony up nearly $500,000 in back pay and fines or face the wrath of the labor office. That’s one reason why, if he has come into the United States in the last couple of days as my sources say, he may be contemplating sneaking out again. Between process servers for lawsuits, an overdue jury notice and this new wrinkle, Jackson is a wanted man in this country.
Jackson, who likes a good helping of melodrama in his life, comes home to California as many plot lines in his personal soap opera converge. Not only is the Neverland story unfolding fast, but there is also a funeral for the Jackson 5’s drummer, Johnny Jackson (no relation), which his sister Janet has paid for, and a public scandal involving a book proposal his brother Jermaine wrote in which Michael is portrayed as a drugged-out child abuser who himself was abused by his own father.
And then there is the issue of where all Jackson’s money has gone. Readers ask me this question on a regular basis. Jackson is quick to blame anyone else for taking advantage of him.
Now, with the Neverland debacle turning ugly, the expert in the hot seat would be Whitman, Jackson’s accountant. A partner in the Hollywood firm Bernstein, Fox, and Whitman, he has not able to send out the payroll or meet those insurance minimums for months.
But that doesn’t mean that Whitman’s firm hasn’t been remunerated for the voluminous work it has done for Jackson. In the deposition, Whitman testified that since 2003, his firm has reaped $2.3 million in fees from Michael while others have waited patiently.
It’s also unclear whether Jackson has ever actually met Whitman or spoken to him more than once.
And PS: I wrote in a special column last night that Jackson is now being sued by his most recent legal counsel, Brent Ayscough. That is true. However: additional legal papers also show that Ayscough resigned from representing Jackson several weeks ago.
It also seems that Brian Oxman, who continues to volunteer his services to the media as Jackson’s lawyer or spokesman, was fired by Tom Mesereau last September. Now Mesereau has resigned as well from representing Jackson. I will share more about this with you, dear readers, on Monday…