As co-executor of Jackson’s will, John Branca chooses to ignore the erupting dramas and personal attacks and keeps his eye on the future, which he says belongs to Jackson’s mother and children and to the pop star’s musical legacy.
He and co-executor John McClain have been successfully pursuing projects to pay off a mountain of debt left by the superstar, to assure the financial future of his three children and to guarantee that Jackson’s music will live forever..
“When Michael Jackson died, he was near bankruptcy,” said Branca, suggesting the future for his three young children was uncertain. “Now we know the kids will be OK.”
Branca sat down recently with The Associated Press to discuss the current state of the Jackson estate and projects to preserve Jackson’s image as the King of Pop. But he resolutely refused to address the elephant in the room — recent attacks on him and McClain by some Jackson siblings who were left out of their brother’s will.
They sent a lengthy letter that became public accusing the executors of deceit and manipulation of their mother and claiming that Jackson’s will was a fraud. They have not taken any court action and legal experts say the time to challenge the will, which disinherited them, is long past.
Branca and McClain issued a statement calling the accusations “false and defamatory,” adding “we are especially disheartened that they come at a time when remarkable progress is being made to secure the financial future of his children …”
Secure in his knowledge that all four of Jackson’s wills named him as executor, Branca continues to make deals for the Jackson estate that are generating millions in revenue. This week, they announced an agreement with Sony/ATV Music Publishing to administer Jackson’s Mijac Music catalog, which includes such hits as “Beat It” and “Billie Jean.” The deal is expected to generate enough revenues to pay off a remaining $5 million loan by year’s end.
Since Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, Branca said the singer’s personal debt of $200 million has been paid off and another $300 million tied to his ownership of the Sony and ATV catalogs has been renegotiated.
“Michael had a will and a trust and that’s what we follow,” he said.
The estate pays Mrs. Jackson $70,000 a month for the children’s support, pays the rent on their mansion in Calabasas, and is picking up bills for other expenses including renovation of their Encino home.
Branca’s AP interview was his indirect response to accusations by Janet, Jermaine, Randy and Rebbie Jackson that the estate was being mishandled. Jermaine later disavowed the incendiary letter and called for peace in the family. But Janet, Randy and Rebbie fired back with a letter of their own reiterating their complaints.
Brimming with excitement, Branca spoke of upcoming ventures he thinks would have delighted Jackson, especially a permanent Jackson-themed extravaganza on the Las Vegas Strip. It comes on the heels of the Cirque du Soleil Jackson tribute show, “Immortal: The World Tour.”
“The Lion King” theater at the Mandalay Bay Hotel is being rebuilt to house the still untitled show, also a Cirque du Soleil production, which is set to open May 23, 2013.
“It will be highly theatrical and completely different from the arena show, which was more of a concert,” Branca said. “We will have the opportunity to create something special and ground-breaking.”
Declining to reveal all of the technical wizardry planned, he said, “We’ve got all kinds of tricks up our sleeves.”
Every seat will have its own speakers, while the walls and ceiling will be used to create “a totally immersive experience for the audience,” he said.
Unlike the touring show, there will be no live band and all music will come from remixes of Jackson’s recordings.
Branca and co-executor McClain, a reclusive recording executive, say they understand Jackson’s desires to take care of his mother and children — Prince, Paris and Blanket — financially and keep his music alive.
“We feel Michael entrusted us with his legacy and with the future of his mother and children,” Branca said. “We’re honored and proud and passionate about celebrating Michael. It’s a labor of love for us. We love Michael.”
Branca met Jackson in 1980 when both were just starting out. They would go on to legendary success together but there were also some rocky times. During more than two decades together, they had two three-year periods of estrangement over business disagreements.
Branca was rehired by Jackson a month before he died, with instructions to draft an agenda for future business deals. Branca presented the plan a week before Jackson died and it has been the roadmap for the estate’s posthumous enterprises.
In addition to the upcoming Las Vegas show, a new album and a concert DVD will be released soon celebrating the 25th anniversary of Jackson’s “BAD” album. Then a two-hour documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee on the making of “BAD” will show at the Toronto and Venice film festivals next month.
The anniversary promotions include a deal with Pepsi to put silhouettes of Jackson on a billion cans of soda in 20 countries.
And this week, the Cirque du Soleil traveling show begins an international tour to Mexico, Europe and perhaps Asia.
Michael Jackson Will Co-Executor John Branca Responds to Family Feud
August 24, 2012
Katherine Jackson Wants An Extensive Audit Of Michael’s Estate
August 23, 2012
“My audit is being done to see the details of where the money is coming from and where it is going,” Sanders told Radar. “The beneficiaries should be entitled to all detailed documentation so they can see what THEIR money is paying for.”
On July 19, Katherine’s lawyers submitted legal docs asking for “production of supporting documents for account current,” and the docs state, “Ms. Katherine Jackson…hereby requests that representatives John Branca, John McClain and counsel for the Estate of Michael Jackson produce for inspection and audit all supporting documents for the Second Account Current and Report of Status of Administration and Petition..”
However, lawyers for Michael Jackson’s Estate have several issues with Katherine Jackson’s request, and said in their response, “John Branca and John McClain object to the Request to the extent that it is vague and ambiguous as to the phrase ‘all supporting documents for the Second Account Current’ in that the Request encompasses thousands of pages of documents which potentially support the Second Account Current…Responding Party (the executors) objects to the Request to the extent that it seeks highly confidential business and financial information…it will not produce such documents absent the entry of a stipulation and protective order governing, among other things, the access to and use highly confidential documents.” Most of the contracts that the estate has entered into are sealed because they contain trade secrets and other privileged information, and this is routinely done to protect the best interests of the estate.
As previously reported, Judge Mitchell Beckloff awarded co-guardianship of Michael’s three children to Katherine and TJ Jackson on Wednesday after a string of bizarre incidents involving the 82-year-old grandmother/guardian, who was whisked away to an Arizona resort by her children and out of contact with the grandkids for 11 days.
Almost all of the major contracts, business deals and other transactions have all been presented to Judge Beckloff by the executors, in order to be transparent with Michael Jackson’s estate. The executors have requested that Michael Jackson’s estate be handled in probate court for another year.
In the three years since Michael’s tragic death, the executors have wiped almost $475 million dollar in debt off the books that the pop singer had when he passed away. The estate has entered into lucrative business agreements with Pepsi, Cirque du Soleil and were instrumental in the wildly successful theatrical release of Michael Jackson’s rehearsal footage, This Is It.
Judge Mithcell Beckloff will weigh in on what documents if any, the estate will turn over to Katherine Jackson.