The promoters of Michael Jackson’s highly anticipated comeback concerts were interested in pursuing a 3-D version of a “Thriller” movie and a TV special of one of his sold-out concerts at the O2 arena in London, an accountant testified Tuesday.
Arthur L. Erk, a certified public accountant from New York who has previously worked with musical acts such as Britney Spears and Notorious B.I.G, testified that Jackson’s planned “This Is It” concerts stood to make well over $1 billion if he took his show on a global tour.
Erk said the fact that Jackson had sold out 50 shows at the London venue in just minutes was proof that the pop singer’s marketability remained unmatched.
“It never happened before, and it still hasn’t happened again,” said Erk, who calculated that Jackson stood to make as much as $1.5 million if he went on a worldwide tour, as the promoter -- AEG Live -- had hoped.
Erk said that if Jackson had ultimately pulled off a 260-date world tour, envisioned as spanning several years, he could have sold 12.9 million tickets.
The testimony marked the first time in the 2½-month wrongful death case that the attorney representing Jackson’s mother and children has tipped his hand on what type of money the family might be seeking from AEG. Jackson died while he was rehearsing in Los Angeles for the planned 2009 tour.
During cross-examination Monday, AEG attorney Sabrina Strong attacked Erk’s projections, pointing out that Jackson had a history of drug use, had never toured for as long as the CPA anticipated and had been sued in the past for backing out of concerts and other business deals.
Strong played a short portion of the deposition of Katherine Jackson, the singer’s mother, in which she said she was surprised when he announced the “This Is It” concert series.
“Because I know Michael didn’t want to do any more,” she said.
Katherine Jackson said her son joked that he didn’t want to moonwalk on stage when he was 50, his age when he died of an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
Erk said he wasn’t aware of those problems but insisted there was plenty of evidence that Jackson would have gone through with the concerts and that AEG executives certainly thought so.
“He needed the work,” Erk said, referring to Jackson’s financial problems.
On Tuesday, Erk said that his work wrongful death case has cost $300,000.