How Michael Jackson Went From Being A Partner of Sony to A Sony Product

by Larry Carter

In 1985, Michael Jackson acquired ATV Music Publishing catalog, which held most of the Beatles songs, and ten years later negotiated an offer of $90 million dollars and half interest in Sony Music Publishing in exchange for half interest in the ATV catalog. With the merger, Jackson became half owner in the third largest music publishing company in the world, renamed Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

The president and CEO of Sony Corp. welcomed the merger and praised Jackson for his efforts in the venture. Early on however, Sony showed signs of wanting the entire catalog and began pushing to buy all of Jackson's share in the song publishing company. Jackson maintained that he would never sell the Beatles catalog.

In 2002, his CD Invincible had gotten off to the fastest start of any of his albums, including Thriller, in reaching $5 million in sales. It only needed to earn $2 million more to break even, and the singer stood to have another huge successful CD. Sony was seeking to create a need for Jackson to sell the Beatles catalog and began to defund support for Invincible and various other projects. Jackson's charity single, What More Can I Give, a fund raiser for families of 9-11 victims, was not promoted at all.

Also, Jackson was waiting for the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him; this would allow him to promote his old material how he liked, and prevent Sony from getting a cut of the profit. But in early 2000, he learned that due to the fine print and various clauses in the contract, the date his licenses were to revert to him proved to be many years away.

The singer began an investigation and discovered that his attorney in the deal, John Branca, was also representing Sony. Jackson further learned that Branca had embezzled money from him and put it in an off-shore account. Michael Jackson sued in 2003 to get out of his contract with Branca.

When Jackson later refinanced his debt with the Fortress investment group in 2007, Sony corp. helped facilitate the deal. In return, Sony secured the right to purchase half of Jackson's share in Sony/ATV at a predetermined price, leaving him with just 25% of the company -- Sony also would become managing partner. And if Jackson's career or financial situation were to deteriorate further, Sony had obtained the right to match any future offer on the pop star's remaining 25% stake.

Sony also showed interest in MiJac, holder of Jackson's old tunes, and obtained the right of first look at purchasing the singer's own catalog. Before the pop star acquired the Beatles catalog, he had been buying up rights to his earlier songs for his MiJac label, which had not been a part of the Sony deal. Over the last 3 decades, Jackson had been collecting material he produced with many other chart-topping artists he intended to use for future projects.

Upon his death, Katherine Jackson, his mother filed court documents in an attempt to safeguard her late son's assets, stating that because Michael had died without a wife or adult children, the family was legally empowered to take control of the estate, and asked that a special administrator be immediately appointed to oversee bank accounts and lucrative enterprises which were controlled by "unspecified third parties." Court documents also pointed out that at least one person was improperly claiming to have a power of attorney to act on Jackson's behalf (power of attorney ends at death).

Thereafter, Branca conveniently produced a highly questionable will, dated in 2002 with a signature said not to be Jackson's; his children's names were all wrong; and signed in Los Angeles on a day Jackson was in New York. Branca claimed that Michael Jackson had rehired him just 8 days before his death. However, when Jackson terminated Branca in 2003, he ordered the attorney to return the originals of all documents to his new attorney, and demanded Branca to never have anything to do with him, his business, his family, or his personal life again.

Katherine said she searched among Michael's things and couldn't find a copy of the alleged will, establishing the Michael Jackson Family Trust, and naming Branca executor of Jackson's estate with "full power of authority… to sell, lease, mortgage, pledge, exchange or otherwise dispose of the property, whether real or personal comprising my (Jackson's) estate, upon such terms as my Executors shall deem best …"

Jackson parents filed separate lawsuits challenging the validity of the will. upon learning that if she contested the will and lost, she would be disinherited, Katherine Jackson withdrew her suit. Shortly after, Joseph Jackson's challenge to the will was dismissed outright for lack of standing; in the opinion of the court, the father could not contest the validity of his son's will since he was not mentioned in it.

Now with free reign to act as it chooses, the first transaction of the Michael Jackson Family Trust was with Sony Music Entertainment, whereby an agreement was reached on a distribution deal that included the mega star's unreleased projects; his recordings, DVDs, video games and theater, which was said to be worth $250 million. Branca and John McCain, his co-executor, each earned a $2.5 million fee for their part in negotiating the deal with Sony. The Michael Jackson Family Trust executor said of the deal, "We and Sony feel that the future for Michael Jackson is unlimited."

"We think the recordings will always be an important part of the estate," Branca said, "new generations of kids are discovering Michael … A lot of people that went to see 'This Is It' were families. 'This Is It' was one of the few American films allowed into China. So we think there are growing and untapped markets for Michael's music."

In the nine months since his death, according to Billboard, 31 million copies of Michael's albums were sold as well.

"There are also audio rights for theatre, movies, computer games," Branca announced to the media. "I don't know how an audio soundtrack will be used in 2017, but you've got to bet on Michael Jackson in any new platform."

Source: SuperStarOfPop