June 16, 2008 / 12:24 AM / 9 years ago

Michael Jackson in talks on possible Las Vegas act

<p>Michael Jackson waves to fans at a U.S. military facility in Tokyo, as he walks to board a helicopter bound for Camp Zama, a U.S. military base west of Tokyo, to join a fan appreciation event March 10, 2007.Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson may relaunch his career as a Las Vegas act, thanks to the private equity group that recently bought the loan on his Neverland Ranch in California to help the pop star avert foreclosure.

The investment firm Colony Capital is discussing with Jackson various repayment options for the $23 million debt, including a possible long-term engagement as the resident performer of a Vegas casino or nightclub, a source familiar with the talks said on Friday.

Colony Capital, based in Los Angeles, owns the Las Vegas Hilton and is a major shareholder in the Station Casinos chain.

The source emphasized that no deal was in place and that a gig for Jackson in Las Vegas, a city of second chances for many faded superstars, was merely one idea under consideration as Colony Capital explores loan repayment scenarios with him.

The talks with Jackson were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which quoted Colony Capital CEO Tom Barrack as saying, "we've been having discussions with Mr. Jackson about a recapitalization and refinancing of Neverland in addition to various other business opportunities and mutual interests."

A Colony Capital spokesman told Reuters the company was not commenting further on the matter. Jackson's personal spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

Bringing Jackson to Sin City as a performer would mark the biggest step the 49-year-old performer has taken toward a comeback since a child molestation trial left his career, his reputation and financial status in tatters three years ago.

LAST COMEBACK PANNED

Jackson became a virtual recluse after a California jury acquitted him of all charges in June 2005, moving his place of residence alternately to Ireland, Dubai and Bahrain. He reportedly is now living with his three young children in Pahrump, Nevada, about 60 miles from Las Vegas.

A fleeting "comeback" appearance at a London awards show in 2006 was roundly panned by critics, though a 25th anniversary reissue of his blockbuster "Thriller" album earlier this year posted strong sales.

Still, the mercurial performer known for extravagant spending has by all accounts remained mired in debt.

In a bid to stave off insolvency in 2006, Jackson reached a deal to refinance more than $200 million in loans secured by his prized stake in the Beatles' song catalog.

Those loans held by the New York private equity firm and hedge fund Fortress Investment Group, which in May sold Jackson's note on the Neverland Ranch to Colony Capital in a deal that averted foreclosure proceedings on the property.

According to the Journal, Colony is negotiating an arrangement allowing Jackson to delay making payments for the time being in exchange for more money further down the road.

Colony also is urging the singer to sell off Neverland as quickly as possible and to emerge from seclusion in Nevada to launch a career comeback in Vegas, the Journal said.

One idea under discussion, the newspaper reported, was for Colony to install Jackson as a regular performer at one of its hotel-casinos, playing 180 nights a year. Another would be to create a musical extravaganza in which Jackson would appear 20 or 30 times a year, possibly with his brothers.

Colony also is pressing Jackson to go on TV, perhaps on Oprah Winfrey's show, to make a public statement putting the Neverland Ranch and the controversy connected with it behind him, and to perform in a TV special proving to the world that he can still sing and dance.

Reuters/Nielsen

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