Michael Jackson Was $500 Million in Debt at Time of Death

When Michael Jackson passed away on 25th June 2009, from apparent cardiac arrest in Los Angeles at the age of 50, he was over $500 million in debt, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

The night before his death, Jackson was rehearsing for his ‘This Is It’ residency at the O2 Arena in London. Despite his intense preparations and new songs, Jackson needed money to manage his $30 million annual debt, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Also Read: Juliano Krue Valdi Will Play Young Micheal Jackson in Biopic, ‘Micheal’

Michael Jackson Debt
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Certified public accountant William R. Ackerman, testifying in a 2013 wrongful-death trial, detailed Jackson’s finances, highlighting his spending on charity, gifts, travel, art, and furniture. Ackerman noted Jackson’s significant jewellery expenditures, emphasizing that he was financially drained.

Jackson’s debt issues dated back to 1993, escalating to $140 million by 1998. Between June 2001 and June 2009, his debt increased by $170 million, with loan interest rates ranging from just under 7% to 16.8%. Jackson had used his stake in a song catalogue, including Beatles hits, as collateral for $270 million in loans from Bank of America, which were later sold to Fortress Investment Group.

Michael Jackson Debt
Image Courtesy: People

Randy Phillips, former CEO of AEG Live, told Rolling Stone in 2009 that Jackson wanted to focus on his work rather than his lifestyle, emphasizing his readiness to clean up his finances and settle down.

After Jackson’s death, his estate faced the financial burden of the cancelled tour, owing about $40 million to concert promoter AEG. Estate executors John Branca and John McClain, along with legal counsel Jonathan Steinsapir and Saul Ewing, claimed in a March 2024 filing that the estate was near bankruptcy at Jackson’s death but is now valued at over $2 billion.

Michael Jackson Debt
Image Courtesy: People

Jackson had multiple lawsuits and over 65 creditor claims against his estate. The executors managed 15 U.S. lawsuits and additional cases in Europe and Japan, resolving many favourably. They renegotiated and restructured Jackson’s debts, including those secured by his music catalogue, Mijac Music, and his interest in Sony/ATV. In 2012, they acquired an interest in EMI Music Publishing, later selling it to Sony Corp. in 2018 for about $300 million, yielding a significant return.

The probate court oversees the estate’s finances, ensuring the beneficiaries, Jackson’s children Paris, Prince, and Bigi, receive their due. Legal firms involved in estate matters have requested substantial fees, reflecting the estate’s complex legal challenges.

Michael Jackson Debt
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A notable ongoing legal issue involves Michael Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck, whose cases against Jackson’s companies MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures will go to trial. They allege that Jackson’s employees facilitated and covered up the abuse. Jackson’s estate denies these allegations, maintaining confidence in his innocence.

Jackson’s attorney, Steinsapir, expressed disappointment with the court’s decision to proceed with the case, asserting that the allegations are unfounded and that the truth will ultimately vindicate Jackson.

–Farheen Ali

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