Michael Jackson’s mum clashes with estate executors over $600m catalog deal

Katherin Jackson, 93 year-old, has clashed with the co-executors of her late son, Michael Jackson’s estate in court on Friday, March 8.

According to multiple reports, the clash is as a result of the $600 million sale of Michael Jackson’s music assets to Sony. 

At a hearing in a Los Angeles courtroom, Katherine Jackson’s lawyer, Robert E. Allen, argued that estate co-executors John Branca and John McClain should be held “in contempt” for closing the eye-watering deal while she’s still appealing a ruling on the matter.

The deal was negotiated by Branca and McClain to take advantage of an asset market that was “by far” the “hottest it had ever been,” a recent appellate brief filed by the estate says. The pact purportedly lets the estate maintain “effective control over Michael’s music” while diversifying its range of assets, the filing reads.

Though the exact terms of the deal remain sealed, the estate gets to keep control of “all critical decisions relating to the exploitation of Michael’s name, image and likeness rights, to protect and preserve his legacy,” the estate says. It also will “continue to exercise day-to-day control over merchandising and monetization of the estate’s trademarks and related rights,” the recent appellate brief reveals.

However, Katherine’s lawyer said he believes the deal represents a violation of court orders because Katherine’s appeal of a prior ruling on the transaction is still pending.

Allen proposed setting a court date to take up the matter of holding co-executor Branca in contempt but Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff, who’s been overseeing Michael Jackson’s estate since his death in 2009, said the executors had authority to close the deal. 

Beckloff said it was true that Katherine’s appeal meant that his “blessing” of the deal had been put on hold, but he said the executors were free to move ahead knowing they would be “personally on the hook” if their actions led to lawsuits.

Jeryll Cohen, a lawyer for the estate said her side always knew it didn’t need the court’s permission to proceed, but it sought such permission whenever possible. She said in this case, timing was important.

In filings, the executors say the estate was saddled with debt and on the verge of bankruptcy when Michael Jackson died. “Exercising the powers granted in Michael’s will as confirmed by the probate court, they entered into business transactions involving the estate’s assets that skyrocketed the estate’s value to over $2 billion,” the recent appellate filing signed by estate lawyer Jonathan P. Steinsapir said.

But issues remain, so the probate case is still open, meaning the trusts set up for Michael’s three children and his mother have not yet been funded.

On Friday, Cohen said the executors were objecting to a six-figure legal bill submitted to the estate from Katherine’s lawyers. One of her attorneys said the refusal amounted to revenge on Katherine for objecting to the asset transaction.

The judge, who is retiring next month, set a follow-up hearing for March 22.

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