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Michael Jackson trial: Lawyers focus on star's financial state, debt

August 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Attorneys in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial continue to fight over money - specifically, how much money Jackson owed at the time of his death.

Jackson partnered with AEG for his comeback tour as he faced growing debt, according to AEG defense witness William Ackerman. The CPA said there were so many bills that the star's ability to supply his mother and children with cars, big homes and gifts was doubtful.

Ackerman testified about Jackson's expenses in the eight years before his comeback concert deal. He said Jackson's annual spending ranged from $24 million to $45 million, which included everything from paying debt service on loans, to Neverland upkeep and generous charitable donations.

However, Jackson attorney Brian Panish contests Ackerman's numbers. The plaintiffs contend the music icon had plenty of assets including the Sony/ATV catalogue. He said what Jackson lacked was cash flow.

Panish elicited that Jackson was getting help from real estate investor Thomas Barrack.

"It was clear Michael was going to earn a lot of money on this tour, and that he would continue to support his children as he had been, and the only reason they wanted to bring the debt was to show that Michael hadn't worked for a while and to assassinate his character," said Panish.

AEG's defense countered with other statements from investor Barrack, saying that Jackson did not realize how bad off he was.

"Come 2008, Mr. Jackson realized there was no more money. No one would let him borrow any more. He wasn't making any more. He couldn't turn to what monies he had coming in from his prior royalties and assets were servicing a fraction of the debt he now had. As a result, he had nowhere else to turn but himself," said defense attorney Marvin Putnam.

Jackson's debt is a factor for the jury to determine a potential damage award for Jackson's mother and three children, should the jury find AEG liable for Jackson's death. Katherine Jackson claims that AEG executives pressured her son to perform and, at the star's request, hired Dr. Conrad Murray.

"I think that financial pressure is a motivator to work and Mr. Jackson knew that he had to do this and he kind of succumbed to the pressure that was being applied to him, to where AEG knew they had him right where they wanted him," said Panish.

The defense contends that all people who have bills feel pressure to work. As far as AEG's knowledge that Jackson had so many bills, Putnam says that wasn't public knowledge.

"I don't think anyone in the world knew, except for maybe Mr. Jackson and his financial advisors in 2008, that he was half a billion dollars in debt," said Putnam.

Wednesday, attention turns to Michael Jackson's dependency on prescription medications and what his former wife knew. The defense plans to call Debbie Rowe to the stand.


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