Michael Jackson's got some big problems. And that's besides being arrested for child molestation. Jackson has no idea that his current manager, Dieter Wiesner, the man who helped hire attorney Mark Geragos and is now calling the shots in the Jackson camp, is known for operating sex clubs and brothels at home in Germany.
Prostitution is legal in Germany, in case you didn't know. But many other things, which Wiesner’s former partners and employees say he has interests in, are not legal, including fraud — for which he was tried earlier this year in a German court — and selling stolen goods.
As well, because of debts Wiesner incurred on his behalf, Jackson has lost the rights to his MJ trademark in Germany and Europe to a technology company. The result could be that company's interference with the sales of Jackson CDs on that continent.
This is bad news for a number of reasons. According to my sources, in recent weeks Wiesner and his partner, Ronald Konitzer, have cut Jackson off from his regular group of advisers, isolating him. (Konitzer, a Vancouver businessman who is said to have many enemies, is apparently the one who actually called Geragos last spring.) Together they have been with Jackson since before the search of Neverland Ranch on Nov. 19, staying at the pop star's side.
Wiesner can be seen lurking in the background on the infamous videotape of Jackson dangling a baby from a German hotel balcony.
It's no secret that Jackson has been a poor judge of character in the past regarding business partners. But Wiesner seems the oddest choice of all. In 1997, during Jackson's European tour, Wiesner set up a plan to market a soft drink called the MJ Mystery Drink with Jackson's endorsement. The project crashed and burned, with Wiesner and his partner Karl Neubacher — a garage mechanic Wiesner is said to have hired off the street — declaring bankruptcy and bringing the ire of his investors.
Wiesner and Neubacher eventually stood trial for fraud but a judge gave them two years probation and a fine of $5000 euros. Nevertheless, Jackson continues to trust Wiesner who still manages Jackson's MJ Net Entertainment AG, which handles merchandising for the singer.
Even though the court let Wiesner off the hook, the investors in Mystery Drink remain furious with him. One of them, a printing company, lost roughly a million dollars in the deal. Another investor, Thomas Rinnert, who now runs an air cargo company, has nothing but disdain for his former partner.
Rinnert, who said he set up the initial Mystery Drink meetings for Wiesner with Sony’s merchandising office in London, said he lost $120,000 of his own money.
"Dieter will take Michael's money," said Rinnert. "He is a snake. He's very dangerous. He's an unhuman, greedy, unscrupulous person. He is dangerous. Michael Jackson is his victim."
Rinnert also said that during the time he knew Wiesner, the latter man invited him several times to sex clubs he owned. Another former associate who worked with Wiesner on the failed Mystery Drink project said over the weekend that Wiesner owns several such clubs. Two of the clubs were identified as the Sauna Relax Club in Limburg, Germany, and the Sex In (formerly called Rosie's Bar), which is managed by Wiesner's girlfriend, Roswitha Becker, in Darmstadt, Germany. Becker's sister is also said to be part of the team, which operates the two clubs plus private apartments where call girls ply their trade.
"He's the worst thing you can come across," said Richard Kaser, who worked for Wiesner for three years on Jackson related projects.
Kaser said that Wiesner regularly used the MJ Entertainment company offices to house stolen goods, which Wiesner allegedly purchased in bulk. "We had a load of leather jackets that suddenly arrived at the Mystery company. But there was a tip off of a police raid, and by the time they came, the jackets were gone."
In August 2000, a Darmstadt police official, Thomas Karolewicz, quipped in a memo that Wiesner was "well known" to his department. Karolewicz told me yesterday he knew Wiesner but was prevented by law from discussing his activities
According to my sources, Jackson does not know the true nature of Wiesner's business. The two were introduced by Jackson's former head of security, Wayne Nagin, after Wiesner approached Nagin with a business proposition for Jackson in 1997. Nagin is now rumored to have his own legal troubles.
Apart from Wiesner's own questionable business, his mishandling of Jackson's financial dealings is now in question also. This year, he lost control of Jackson's trademark "MJ" logo to a German businessman, Wolfgang Rath. Rath runs TePax, a German investment company that owns the technology to make flat, wall hanging high-end stereo speakers. Rath said he made a deal with Jackson, via Wiesner, to put Jackson's (removable) image on the speakers. In turn, Wiesner ordered thousands of speakers for Jackson to give or sell to fans.
"The problem started as MJ Net Entertainment never paid any of our invoices," Rath wrote to me from his sickbed yesterday. "So we have already delivered several systems, which they never paid for, and in addition we have about 10,000 systems in our warehouse, which were built for them. Our channels are totally filled up, so no one knows what to do with the product."
Rath said he wrote to Jackson's representatives and got no response. Eventually, he said, TePax won two cases against Wiesner in court and gained the rights to the Jackson trademark. "But merchandising is not our core business and after another six months time of no reaction from mj net we start now our second step and try to sell our rights on the logo. The only problem is that exactly now MJ has a really bad image in Germany, but of course this can change. So we are now willing to do anything to sell some of the remaining stock and the logo to get a small compensation for our loss."
One would think that buying back the Jackson logo would be something Sony would be mildly interested in. But Rath said Sony declined to get involved.
"Their only comment was that they don’t deal with MJ any longer." He adds, "It would be a disaster if we send Sony a letter mentioning they are not allowed to use the logo any longer and they have to take back even all old CDs from the German market. This would cost them millions."
Wiesner's German lawyer, Thomas Stein, told me yesterday that he was surprised to hear about his client's activities, but didn't know him well. Wiesner, through a spokesman, said that he never owned any businesses involving prostitution, just restaurants with bars. "I've never been convicted of fraud. Fraud was alleged, but the case was resolved," he said.
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