Mapping out Jackson, the brand
Moving quickly to capitalize on fans’ appetite for anything related to Michael Jackson, administrators for the singer’s estate have mapped out elaborate plans for merchandising deals, a tribute concert, a television special and even a traveling exhibition of Jackson memorabilia.
In a court filing last week, Jeryll S. Cohen, a lawyer for the administrators, said she expected the deals to generate an amount in the “high eight figures” -- tens of millions of dollars -- for the singer’s estate. The agreement among administrators John McClain and John Branca, Bravado International Group Merchandising Services and the concert promoter behind Jackson’s planned comeback concerts, AEG Live, is dated July 6 -- 12 days after the singer’s death.
Terms of the various deals are laid out in a redacted 500-page-plus court filing that was made public Tuesday, detailing proposals for embossed wine decanters, virtual tattoos and a high-end clothing line all bearing the Jackson brand.
The documents also reveal that Columbia Pictures paid AEG $60 million for the rights to make a feature-length movie out of rehearsal footage for Jackson’s This Is It concerts in London -- hundreds of hours of high-definition video shot in the days before the superstar’s death in June.
The plans are subject to the approval of a Los Angeles probate judge who will review the documents at a hearing Monday. Jackson’s mother, Katherine, will be permitted to voice any objections at that time. Lawyers for Katherine Jackson have said she should have an official role in her son’s affairs and have asked that she be named an executor of Jackson’s estate.
Under terms of a 2002 will Jackson signed, his mother and three children receive a combined 80% of his assets, with the remainder going to several unnamed children’s charities.
In the deal with Columbia -- a division of entertainment giant Sony Corp., which distributes Jackson’s music as an adult solo performer -- Jackson’s estate would receive 90% of any movie profit and the rest would go to AEG.
A final cut of the film must be screened for representatives of his estate no later than Oct. 2, must be rated PG and cannot include material that “presents Michael Jackson in a negative light,” the contract says.
There are plans for a movie soundtrack as well as a director’s cut DVD and two special editions of the film after its theatrical run.
The documents also stipulate that Branca, Jackson’s longtime entertainment attorney, and McClain, a family friend, can produce at least one tribute concert to the singer as long as the broadcast does not interfere with the film’s release.
A possible television airdate for the concert was redacted. No information was given about which network, if any, would broadcast it.
Branca and McClain entered into an agreement with Bravado -- the merchandising wing of Universal Music Group -- to produce and distribute an eclectic array of products using the pop icon’s music and image. Among them: Jackson-branded illustrated and photo books, trading cards, lithographs, buttons, live recordings on USB drives, online games, and denim and high-end clothing.
With an eye toward establishing Jackson’s presence in the digital realm, the deal proposes to extend licensing to digital apparel, accessories and even tattoos “for use in virtual worlds, e.g., ‘Second Life,’ ‘There.com,’ ‘Stardoll.’ ” Also proposed are “theme packs” for the Xbox gaming console and wallpaper and screen savers for mobile phones.
AEG would retain rights to sell about 300 promotional products that Jackson helped design for the concerts at London’s O2 Arena, the contract states.
A separate agreement includes plans for a traveling “MJ Exhibition” of Jackson memorabilia to be approved by both the estate and the promoter. Many details were redacted, but it calls for the displays to be shown only at museums and for exhibition-related merchandise to be produced and distributed.
Also released Tuesday was a petition filed Monday by Cohen, the administrators’ lawyer, that mentions a “very favorable agreement for the estate” with Apple Inc., parent of iTunes, to promote and distribute Jermaine Jackson’s rendition of “Smile.” He had performed the song at Michael Jackson’s memorial service.
The petition urges the court to act with haste: “There is currently a heightened demand for merchandise relating to Michael Jackson which may diminish over time, and, more importantly, it is necessary for the estate to immediately begin to enforce its rights with respect to its licenses and to police bootlegging (which is currently occurring).”