Doctor's conviction could boost Michael Jackson estate

Fri Nov 4, 2011 8:36am EDT
 
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A manslaughter conviction against Michael Jackson's doctor would boost the late pop star's image and open opportunities for his estate in many markets, including family-oriented products, industry experts said.

A Los Angeles jury begins deliberations on Friday in the six-week trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter over the singer's 2009 death from the anesthetic propofol and sedatives.

Jackson is already the top-earning deceased celebrity, with sales of $170 million over the past year, according to a list released last month by financial website Forbes.com.

The "Thriller" singer's global appeal has risen since his death, but some experts said Jackson's image was tarnished by his final days taking intravenous drugs to sleep. Those images may be erased if a jury convicts Murray, and Jackson is seen as the victim of his negligent care.

"In order to sell Jackson for the next generation of consumers and for parents to feel confident with Jackson, this stigma needs to be lifted, and that's what a Murray conviction needs to do," said Jo Piazza, author of the forthcoming book, "Celebrity, Inc," which looks at stars and brand image.

Otherwise, Jackson "will always be known as someone who died of a drug overdose," Piazza said.

Children were some of the most ardent consumers of Jackson music and merchandise dating back to his stratospheric rise up the pop charts in the 1970s and '80s. But his appeal was damaged by child abuse allegations as an adult and his 2005 trial and acquittal on molestation charges.

It was after the trial that his finances hit rock bottom, as he amassed over $400 million in debt.   Continued...