With pressure building against Michael Jackson on two fronts, sources say the entertainer abruptly canceled the remaining dates of his world tour Friday, raising questions about his future amid the continuing probe into allegations that he molested a 13-year-old boy.
No explanation was given for the cancellation, which seemed to take some Jackson associates by surprise. Sources said members of the Jackson camp expect to hold a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday to make an announcement regarding the entertainer.
Although the sources said Jackson will cancel the remaining dates on his “Dangerous World Tour,” the entertainer is expected to appear at a “Jackson Family Honors” event Dec. 11 in Atlantic City, N.J.
Jackson has been the subject of a criminal investigation since August, when the alleged victim told a therapist that Jackson had repeatedly molested him over a period of months. The therapist reported that conversation to authorities, and Los Angeles police searched two residences belonging to Jackson the next day.
That investigation has been proceeding for months. This week, police served another search warrant, this time at the Encino home of Jackson’s parents. Investigators left with boxes of material, including photographs, but authorities would not comment on what material was seized. A source familiar with the investigation said that, among other things, they were searching for information to corroborate interviews that police have conducted with former employees of the entertainer.
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti said this week that police were proceeding carefully with their investigation. A well-placed law enforcement source said it will not be wrapped up until early next year.
Meanwhile, however, the lawyer for the 13-year-old boy, who filed suit against Jackson, is pushing for speedy progress in that case. Attorney Larry R. Feldman already has asked Jackson to submit a sworn deposition, but Jackson’s lawyers have not agreed to make him available.
Instead, they have asked that the civil case be put on hold for as long as six years or until the criminal case is concluded--a request that a Superior Court judge is scheduled to consider Nov. 23.
“If Michael Jackson is canceling his tour, it would be my hope that he would return to Los Angeles and allow us to try this case in court in an expeditious manner rather than running away from this matter,” Feldman said Friday. “I think my client has a right to move forward with this.”
Jackson has denied any wrongdoing. Members of his entourage claim he is the victim of a $20-million extortion attempt by the boy’s father.
Despite the international uproar created when the allegations of child molestation became public in August, Jackson has pressed on with his world tour, performing across Asia and Europe in recent months. Friday, however, sources said Jackson halted his tour just as it was scheduled to move from Mexico City to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a Sunday concert.
Jackson was booked to perform at least eight more shows before the end of the year in Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Dubai; New Delhi and Singapore. Other shows, including one next week in Monterrey, Mexico, were being added to the schedule. Citing illness and scheduling complications, Jackson already had canceled almost a third of the 30 stops on the tour, which opened Aug. 24 in Bangkok.
One source said Jackson had left Mexico on Friday and was believed headed for Switzerland with Elizabeth Taylor and her husband, Larry Fortensky.
Neither Jackson’s criminal attorney, Howard Weitzman, nor his civil lawyer, Bertram Fields, was available to answer questions about the entertainer’s whereabouts. His private investigator, Anthony J. Pellicano, refused to comment.
The apparent decision to cancel the concerts stirred intense confusion in the Jackson camp. In Mexico, officials with the Jackson entourage said late Friday that they were awaiting word from the singer about whether the tour would proceed as scheduled. At the same time, Pepsi Cola, which is sponsoring the “Dangerous” tour, said it was unaware of any decision to call off the remainder of the concerts.
“We know of no plans to cancel the tour,” said Gary Hemphill, a Pepsi spokesman.
The tour has been dogged from the start by the child molestation allegations, as well as by health complications and other problems that have cut into profits.
At the tour’s outset, Jackson canceled two Bangkok shows, citing dehydration. He shelved an additional date in Singapore after collapsing backstage.
He recovered from those ailments and performed two sold-out concerts in Fukuoka, Japan. But because of the extremely high production costs of those concerts, the Fukuoka shows reportedly resulted in financial losses.
High ticket prices prevented Jackson from selling out his Moscow show in September at the 75,000-seat Luzhniki stadium.
His initial Tel Aviv concert was postponed at the request of Israeli rabbis because it had been scheduled on the first day of the Jewish New Year. Jackson subsequently played two sold-out shows Sept. 19 and 20.
Other shows were canceled in South Africa, Australia, Chile and Peru.
Over the 10 years Pepsi has featured Jackson--along with a number of other celebrities--in its advertising, Pepsi has gained two market share points on rival Coke--each point worth an estimated $500 million in annual sales. But it is difficult to isolate Jackson’s appeal from that of scores of other celebrities and promotions that have also been linked with Pepsi during that time.
Although Pepsi has enriched Jackson with an estimated $20 million in endorsement fees, marketing and corporate image experts generally say that should Pepsi’s relationship with Jackson end, it is unlikely to have no effect on Pepsi sales. And Pepsi’s corporate image will probably be tarnished for only briefly.
“Pepsi has an extremely loyal consumer following,” said Kristine Kelley, managing editor of Beverage Industry, a trade magazine based in Northbrook, Ill. “They are not really swayed by who endorses the product.”
Times staff writer Bruce Horovitz in Los Angeles and researcher Susan Drummet in Mexico City contributed to this report.