LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson’s former concert promoter AEG Live is withdrawing a $17.5 million insurance claim in the 2009 death of the pop star amid revelations in leaked emails that show company executives were concerned about his stability ahead of his planned London comeback tour.
Attorneys involved in the case denied on Tuesday that AEG Live’s move was related to the publication of the leaked emails by the Los Angeles Times on September 2.
Jackson died in June 2009 at age 50 from an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol and sedatives. Last year, a Los Angeles jury convicted the “Thriller” singer’s physician, Conrad Murray, of involuntary manslaughter, but heard that Jackson was taking a cocktail of sleep aids and prescription medications.
AEG Live, the concert division of privately-held Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), had filed a claim seeking a $17.5 million insurance payment from Lloyd’s of London for losses they incurred in up-front costs for Jackson’s “This Is It” sell-out shows that were to start in London in July 2009.
Lloyd’s later filed a lawsuit against AEG Live in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking a declaration that the insurance company did not owe the money.
Marvin Putnam, an attorney for AEG, said the company no longer needed the $17.5 million because it was reimbursed by the Jackson estate for its concert-related losses and that it informed Lloyd’s in June that it was withdrawing its claim.
Attorneys in the case told a judge on Monday that as a result they expected AEG Live to be dropped from the case, Putnam said. That has not yet officially happened, he said.
The insurance dispute is one of two major court cases stemming from Jackson’s death.
The other is a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the “Thriller” singer’s mother, Katherine Jackson, against AEG Live in which she accuses the company of being responsible for medical decisions made by Murray. That case is scheduled for trial next year.
The Los Angeles Times on September 2 published portions of emails between AEG Live executives about Jackson and his wellbeing. In one email from March 2009, sent when the singer was in London to announce the concerts, Randy Phillips, chief executive concert division AEG Live, despaired about the singer’s condition.
“MJ is locked in his room drunk and despondent,” Phillips said in the email, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I trying to sober him up.”
While that email led to speculation that AEG Live knew about problems with Jackson while it was firming up its insurance policy with Lloyd’s, Putnam said AEG’s move to drop its insurance claim has “nothing to do with the recent leak” of documents containing the emails.
Attorneys for AEG have said they suspect the emails were leaked from material shared between the two sides in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Katherine Jackson.
“We are standing by AEG’s lawyers comments that the withdrawal of the claim was not related to the leaked emails,” said Paul Schriffer, an attorney for the underwriters at Lloyd’s of London.
Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis. Editing by Jill Serjeant and Andre Grenon