Interview with Henry Vaccaro

by Leslie on

February 14, 2011

After years of blogging about him, I got the chance to make an interview with Henry Vaccaro, the former owner of the biggest Jackson Family memorablia. A story from the man who's life was hardly affected by the Jackson's and the collection. <

Q: As it's well known amongst the fans you get ahold of the Jackson Family memorablia on a bankrupcy court, as a result of a failed business venture with the family. What was your first feeling when you realised that you own the biggest Jackson Family memorablia on the world?
A: I was totally shocked when we started unpacking two 65 feet trailers of memorabilia. It took several months to unpack and catalog, I was amazed at the amount of very personal items that the Jackson's had stored in that warehouse. In fact I felt that I violated this family. Some of the items included bank account deposit books, personal letters, legal documents, divorce papers, birth certificates, school records, personal family photos, etc. No one including me should have another family's very personal property. I never wanted this property only my money. I lost the Kramer Guitar Co. which in 1988 was the most popular guitar in the US with sales of $18 million dollars as the Jackson's defaulted on the purchase contract. I personally flew to California to met Tito where I offered to give everything back. I suggested we all go on a TV show make up with his family, and I would give everything back for nothing, I would in turn get my money from the sponsor. His lawyer refused. Q: What were your initial plans with the memorablia? And what could you realise over the years?
A: My initial plans were to sell the collection in its entirety as I felt it would bring the most money. At first I thought it was worth several million dollars but only got bogus offers.

Q: Is it close to the truth that you didn't do much with the items over the years from a business point of view?
A: After not being able to get real offers, as you may recall Michael's value was at it's lowest in those years because of his legal problems, I then decided to do a Pay Per View web site displaying the collection. In 2005 Michael sued me, my son, Vintage Pop, and for One Hundred Million Dollars, hired a high power law firm and shut down the web site. I won the suite as it was dismissed with prejudice.

Q: According to the media reports you have added some more Michael Jackson items to the collection in 2007 bought on a Las Vegas auction. What was your motivation with that move?
A: Not true, I sold the entire collection to a public corporation, called Universal Express they held the Las Vegas auction which I attended when I saw the bid's so low on what I knew were very valuable items I bought some back. The problem is the owner of Universal Express turned out to be a con artist, and was thrown in jail by the Security Exchange Commission. The SEC appointed a Receiver and Universal Express was liquidated. I was never paid. I filled suit against the Auction House, Universal Express, and the Receiver. A settlement was reached the terms of which can not be disclosed by court order. However I was allowed to recover all the unsold items.

Q: Did you buy or add other items to the collection over the years?
A: No.

Q: As the media reported you are on court with a man named Benson Hopp, because he and his partners stoled some items from the collection. Could you get back those items? Did any memorablia disappear over the years?
A: Some of the item that I was to get back were stored in a warehouse in Las Vegas these were the unsold auction items. When I went to the warehouse over 116 items of Michael's were stolen and sold to Benson Hopp who in turn consigned them to Heritage Auction Co. We put Heritage on notice that the items were stolen we are now in court in Dallas, I believe that all items will be returned to me. I am sure many items have disappeared over the years.

Q: What was the most serious and the weirdest offer you got regarding the collection over the years?
A: The most serious offer came from Howard Mann, I must have entertained hundreds of offers some from Europe some from the Far East. I even hired several agents over the years one who claimed to have a $40,000,000 offer other in the $20,000,000 range. You name them I met with them.

Q: According to some sources you have sold the items recently to Howard Mann. Is it true? Did you keep any of the items?
A: Yes the entire collection was sold to Howard Mann. I kept some of the items.

Q: Do you have any connection with Mr. Mann and any of his entities? Mann created companies with names that are very similar to yours. As well he is using the same lawyer as you did.
A: Yes my family and I own a small percentage of the new entities in California. These entities have the same name to allow them protection under the dismissal of Michael Jackson 2005 law suite which was dismissed with prejudice. That means you cannot be sued again for the same thing. Edgar Pease is a fine lawyer he did represent me in the 2005 lawsuit. He knows all the facts that is probably why Howard Mann hired him.

Q: What do you think about the recent court case between the Michael Jackson Estate and Mr. Mann?
A: I think the lawsuit will be dismissed by the court.

Q: How do you feel about the things said or written about you in the media or on the fan forums?
A: Sometimes the nasty comments get to me but i'm sure the fan's are acting out of their love for Michael. Nothing that I did was personal it was only business. I would like to ask the fans what they would do if in my shoes. The year is 1991, I was a major developer and general contractor in my home state of New Jersey, I was 51 years old. My father died in 1959 at age 51, I was 19, I quit college and started a construction business from scratch, worked 7 days a week built the business to one of the largest construction firms in the state, building schools, hospitals, Hi-Rise apartments, and hotels. In 1985, I formed a joint venture to develop my home town of Asbury Park NJ. The value of that project was $1 Billion Dollars. The economy went bad in late 80's. My joint venture partner went bankrupt and took me with him. I owned a 256 room hotel in Asbury Park, Johnny Cash, my closest friend was one of my partners, the hotel then failed and went bankrupt. These events forced me into personal bankruptcy and I lost everything, including my Home, three Motels, Office Building, hotel,and a 12 building Industrial Park all toll assets of over $80 million, everything I worked my whole life for was gone. The only thing my family had left was H.V.V. Corp which owned Kramer Guitar Co as the stock was owned by my son and daughter and not subject to my personal bankruptcy. Going back to 1976 I was the original investor in Kramer Guitar Co I eventually became Chairman of the Board. Kramer grew so fast that by the late 80's it was the hottest guitar in the country, played and endorsed by Eddie Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Hank Williams Jr, Twisted Sister on and on. We made a custom guitar for Tito Jackson and Kramer was used on The Victory Tour. In 1989 Kramer was sold to a investment group they defaulted on a bank loan and H.V.V. corp purchased the assets from the bank, and tried to revitalize the Kramer Brand. However a dispute with the bank over the ownership of some trademarks forced H.V.V. corp into a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. In 1991, while in Bankruptcy H.V.V. won it's suit against the bank and was then approached by the Jackson Family through their newly established corporation called Jackson Communications Inc. to purchase,and fund the Plan of Reorganization for H.V.V.corp. which would lead to J.C.I. owning Kramer. Part of the deal was that I would sit on the Advisory Board of Directors of J.C.I. In 1992 I attended a Board meeting lasting 4 days held at the family home, Havenhurst, in Encino. I met the entire family except Michael. That Plan of Reorganization was approved by the Court. J.C.I. made the first payment and then defaulted and made no other payments. The Court converted H.V.V. to a Chapter 7 and sold the assets at auction I got NOTHING. I am now completely broke. So I filed suite against J.C.I. and was awarded a judgment of $1.4 million J.C.I. claimed they had no assets, the Federal Judge allowed me to pierce the corporate vail and personal judgments were entered against all stockholders that could be served. We could never serve Michael, Janet or Jackie, my lawyer was not concerned as he figured we could easily collect $1.4 million from the rest of the family. After losing everything in a personal bankruptcy and then getting screwed out of the last thing your family own's meaning the Guitar Company is a bitter pill to swallow. So I fought Back. Like any reasonable person in my shoes would have done, nothing personal just business.

Q: Did you ever meet with Michael Jackson? What do you think about him?
A: No I never met Michael but I feel like I know him from seeing many of his personal effects. You could tell how talented he was just by some of his writings and drawings which I had the privilege to see and touch.I wish that I could have met him because I believe that we could have resolved our problems. Instead this team of lawyers got involved and really came after me .I must tell you this, that by 1993 I was so broke that at the deposition of Joe Jackson I offered to settle my $1.4 million dollar judgment for a quick payment of $100 thousand dollars. The family lawyer say's "I'm here to make sure that you get nothing". That attitude is what kept me going...


I still don't understand how did you come to have MIchael Jackson belonging if he was not a part of the suit?
This is what a question most fans are asking,
And why don't you give it back to his children know that he is dead?

Your items ended up to the hands of a filthy tabloid reporter who made her fantasies out of them. That's hoe the old Michael Jackson fans will remember it.

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