An AEG finance executive Thursday verified a 2009 company budget that allotted $300,000 to be paid to Dr. Conrad Murray for two months of caring for Michael Jackson.
Julie Hollander, vice president/controller of event operations for AEG Live, testified in the wrongful death trial that Murray’s salary of $150,000 each for the months of May and June that year was included in a budget approved by executive Paul Gongaware.
Gongaware is one of the defendants in the civil suit filed against the entertainment company by Jackson’s mother and three children who allege that AEG hired and controlled Murray. Murray treated Jackson as he was preparing for “This Is It,” a series of comeback concerts to be held in London, and gave the singer a fatal dose of propofol.
The case, which could be worth millions, or even billions to Jackson’s family, could turn on whether the jury believes Murray took his marching orders from Murray or Jackson himself.
Hollander was responsible for overseeing the books and the general ledger of all transactions related to “This Is It,” but said it was AEG executive Timm Woolley who actually created and managed the budget and made sure people got paid.
Woolley advised her that Murray was “engaged at the request of the artist,” Hollander said, and added that the budgets were ultimately approved by Gongaware.
PHOTOS: Jackson-AEG wrongful-death case
Hollander called the doctor’s contract with AEG a “draft” because, although it was signed by Murray, neither Jackson nor AEG had signed it.
“If Michael Jackson didn’t die and AEG signed, then AEG would owe the money, right?” Brian Panish, the Jackson family’s attorney, asked.
“If all parties signed it would have been a fully executed contract, yes, and I would have to — if the costs were approved — it would be no basis for me to say I’m not going to pay that,” Hollander said.
She said, however, that there were situations where contracts were signed after Jackson’s death because “due to the abrupt end of the tour, deals were renegotiated.”
Hollander verified a document created May 16, 2009, that listed dozens of changes to the “This Is It” budget. Murray was listed as item 29.
“MJ wishes to have a permanent physician available on call throughout the pre-tour period on operational period,” the document said. “There are 2 months at $150,000 newly budgeted.”
Hollander said she spoke with Woolley about the inclusion of Murray on the budget and to AEG’s in-house attorney Shawn Trell about conditions under which the doctor would be paid.
On May 18, 2009, Hollander wrote an email to several executives asking for information that would help give AEG owner Philip Anschutz an idea of the upcoming tour profits.
“We are in the process of quickly pulling together an urgent re-forecast for Mr. Anschutz and need the latest and greatest on MJ,” her email read. “I recall that you were working on an update. Is it ready for consumption? I need something by tomorrow at the latest.… Once the numbers are in, I need direction from you with respect to the split between UK and US.”
Panish asked Hollander, “They weren’t asking you how the rehearsals were going, were they?”
“They wanted to know how much money would be made for the U.S. and how much money would be made for the U.K., correct?”