April 4, 2009 / 12:06 AM / 8 years ago

Judge allows Michael Jackson auction to proceed

<p>Michael Jackson gestures during a news conference at the O2 Arena in London March 5, 2009. Jackson said he will hold a series of final concerts in Britain later in the year.Stefan Wermuth</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A judge on Friday denied Michael Jackson's attempt to rescue his Neverland Ranch possessions from an auction that will include memorabilia from the height of his 1980s popularity, but the pop star will get another hearing before the sale happens.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brett Klein ruled in favor of Julien's Auction House, which plans to sell about 2,000 Jackson items April 22-25 in Beverly Hills, California.

Jackson's production company filed a lawsuit seeking the return of some items on March 4, the same day auctioneer Darren Julien arrived in Ireland to unveil the items on a tour.

"We're still just as puzzled and baffled by this whole thing as we were when it first happened," Julien said.

Julien last year signed an agreement covering the sale with Dr. Tohme Tohme, who is with Jackson's production company and serves as the singer's spokesman. The auctioneer said that he still does not know exactly which items Jackson wants back.

An attorney representing Jackson did not return calls.

The singer's father, Joe Jackson, attended the court hearing on Friday but the pop star himself was absent.

The auction items in the catalog include clothing, such as a rhinestone-covered equestrian cap, imperial-style military jackets and shiny belts. There are also awards, statues, toys, furniture and a piece of scribble art created by child actor Macaulay Culkin in 1991.

Julien said he has spent $2 million preparing the sale, and that the auction could fetch more than $10 million.

Jackson's attorneys have asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige to issue an injunction blocking the sale, and that hearing is scheduled for April 15.

But Julien's attorney, Jerry Hawxhurst, said Klein's ruling sets the matter to rest.

The sale items come from Jackson's 2,800-acre (1,133-hectare) Neverland Ranch, a property in central California named after the island where children never grow up in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan Stories.

Jackson last year averted a foreclosure sale on Neverland, and later handed over the title to a company made up of himself and the firm that held his loan on the property.

One of the biggest U.S. pop stars of the 1980s, Jackson has lived a reclusive life since he was tried and acquitted of child molestation charges in 2005. But after suffering financial straits, the singer last month announced a series of concerts in London starting in July.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Dan Whitcomb

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