Monday, August 17, 2009

Judge approves Michael Jackson merchandising deal

LOS ANGELES – Official Michael Jackson merchandise will soon arrive on store shelves, but the fate of a proposed tour of the King of Pop's memorabilia remains in limbo after the singer's mother expressed renewed concerns on Monday.

Attorneys for Katherine Jackson withdrew their objections to an agreement with merchandiser Bravado to bring everything from Jackson trading cards, apparel and cell phone themes to consumers.

But her objections remain a roadblock to a deal that would put some of her son's prized items on display later this year. That tour was intended to coincide with the release of a major movie featuring his final rehearsals for a series of London shows.

Burt Levitch, an attorney for Jackson's mother, Katherine, said her objections were over concerns about her son's legacy, as well as the split of proceeds from the memorabilia tour with concert promoter AEG Live.

Attorneys for AEG and the current administrators of Jackson's estate wanted the memorabilia tour approved on Monday, but Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff instead scheduled an evidentiary hearing to determine if the deal represented the best arrangement for Jackson's estate.

Katherine Jackson and her three grandchildren are set to receive the vast majority of the King of Pop's estate. An attorney appointed to represent the children's interests said Monday she thought the deal should be approved.

Kathy Jorrie, an attorney for AEG, said the memorabilia exhibition faces a tight deadline and the company's interest might wane if the tour isn't approved soon. She said the company was not interested in renegotiating the deal.

AEG wants the memorabilia tour to open at the same time as a movie using footage of Jackson's final rehearsals. The deal is expected to generate up to $6 million for the estate, said Howard Weitzman, an attorney for the current administrators of the estate.

Columbia Pictures paid $60 million for the rights to the film based on the Jackson footage, and Jackson's estate is slated to receive 90 percent of the film's profits.

One of the concessions Katherine Jackson is apparently seeking is the authority to sign off on the deal. Beckloff said he was inclined to reject that argument.

"She doesn't own the property," Beckloff said. "There's no reason to make her a signatory to those agreements."

But Beckloff said he wasn't sure that he could grant the estate's administrators approval to enter into the deal without hearing more information. The judge said he was in a difficult position and was concerned that delays in approving the deal — which was first proposed nearly two weeks ago — are hurting the estate.

"I see the delay as a real problem for the estate," Beckloff said.


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