Michael Jackson verdict could shake up entertainment business model

Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:50pm EDT
 
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of late pop star Michael Jackson against his concert promoter is now in the hands of a jury, and the verdict could have far-reaching implications for how the entertainment industry does business with its biggest stars.

The 21-week trial, which has opened a window into the private life and last days of the King of Pop, has put not only concert promoter AEG Live on trial but also the entertainment industry's live-performance business model, analysts say.

After closing arguments concluded on Thursday, the judge sent the jury to deliberate and a verdict is expected some time next week, if not earlier. Jackson family lawyers have suggested in court documents that damages could exceed $1 billion.

"If AEG is found liable, that puts these companies on the line for millions and billions of dollars, and it is already causing the industry to rethink how the structure is set up," said Jo Piazza, the author of "Celebrity, Inc." and a celebrity branding consultant.

Currently, entertainment producers typically pay up-front sums running into millions of dollars to performers in exchange for being able to have greater control over some of the performers' affairs.

The lawsuit alleged that "AEG came to control much of Jackson's life. The home Jackson lived in was provided by AEG; his finances were dependent on AEG, and his assets stood security if he failed to perform." Those assets included The Sony/ATV music catalog owned by Jackson, which even includes iconic Beatles songs.

The verdict "could have a chilling effect on how much micro-management of a star's life companies like AEG and other production companies have," Piazza said.

"But the reason the micro-management even exists is to make sure that the celebrities, the talent, is in the best position possible to make money for the production company," she added.   Continued...

 
Brian Panish, attorney for the Michael Jackson family delivers his closing argument to jurors in a packed courtroom in Los Angeles, September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Al Seib/Pool