In the world of Michael Jackson, onlookers must often wait for the dust to settle before events become clear. The star is eratic, his plans are rarely concrete and his motivation is often beyond comprehension.
Events surrounding Jackson's press conference last month were typically baffling, but the Newshound is now able to shed some light on the confusion that surrounded the announcement of his London concerts.
In February the Newshound became the first journalist to break news
of Michael Jackson's summer residency. Shortly afterwards, the Newshound received information
from Sony and O2 sources that a press conference would take place on Thursday 26th February.
The date came and went and the Newshound's sources were bemused. At the time, it was speculated
that company heads could have leaked the wrong date as a diversionary tactic.
The Newshound can now reveal that this was not the case - Jackson really was
due to announce the concerts on Thursday 26th February.
Sources involved in organising funding and sponsorship for the concerts say the star is a 'loose cannon' who simply failed to show up in London at the appointed time.
Jackson fired lawyer Peter Lopez early in the week that the announcement had been scheduled, leaving organisers unable to contact him and forcing them to scrap their plans.
When concert promoters eventually contacted Jackson through his manager, Dr Tohme Tohme of Colony Capital, the press conference was rescheduled for the following week.
When anxious organisers received word that Jackson had boarded his flight to London on Tuesday 3rd March, a source contacted the Newshound
to leak the star's arrival time and accommodation details. Organisers also ensured that news was leaked to Jackson's many fansites.
Those responsible claimed to be leaking the information on Jackson's behalf, saying that the star wanted his fans to greet him upon his arrival.
This later proved untrue - Jackson hid behind an umbrella at the airport and entered his hotel through a back door, shunning the fans who organisers had urged to wait outside the hotel all afternoon.
The true reason for the leak was that the previous week's event had served as a stark reminder to concert organisers that Jackson is entirely unreliable.
In an act of desperation, information was leaked to the Newshound and to the fan community in the hope that the mainstream press would pick up on it. If the press caught Jackson sneaking into the country, thought the organisers, there was no way he could pull out of the press conference and sneak back out again.
It was The Sun who delivered the golden egg, capturing long lens photographs of Jackson exiting his private jet at Mohammed Al Fayed's private airstrip.
The Newshound can today reveal that despite having been captured on camera arriving in London, Jackson still
attempted to pull out of his press conference.
The Newshound was issued accreditation for the press conference and so was stuck in the holding pen, otherwise known as the Indigo2 nightclub inside the O2 complex, as a drama secretly unfolded at Jackson's hotel.
As the appointed time of 4pm drew closer, press and photographers grew ever more anxious: Why were they not being allowed into the foyer for the announcement? Annoyed snappers and reporters began gathering at the nightclub doors, much to the chagrin of PR staff.
"Nothing will be happening for at least twenty minutes," press were told, "so you may as well sit down." Twenty minutes soon became thirty, then forty. Forty minutes became an hour.
Press were eventually led into the arena at around 4.30pm, after relieved PR staff received confirmation that Jackson had finally left his hotel. The star would later appear onstage at 5.30pm, an hour and a half late.
The official reason for Jackson's lateness was that he had become stuck in traffic en route to the O2 complex.
This story was later contradicted by reports that before Jackson took the stage for his announcement, he became the first person to walk around the O2's new exhibition, the 'British Music Experience'.
This was self-serving spin designed to accomplish two goals. The first was to give the impression that Jackson had been at the O2 centre all along, distracting press from the real reason for his lateness, and the second was to shamelessly promote the complex's latest attraction.
In fact, both stories are easily disproved.
When Jackson left his hotel for the press conference he was, as usual, accosted by a mob of fans and photographers.
Photographers snapped the star leaving his hotel at approximately 4.15pm - a quarter of an hour after he was supposed to have taken the stage. He wasn't stuck in traffic and he wasn't walking around an exhibition - he hadn't even left his hotel.
The Newshound can exclusively reveal that Jackson had barricaded himself in his hotel room and spent several hours refusing to attend the press conference. Minders were forced to stand in the hotel corridor and plead with him through the door to his room. By the time he was persuaded to leave, he was already significantly late for the announcement. Meanwhile, at the O2, PR staff were becoming concerned and irritable.
Once at the O2 Jackson remained reluctant to take the stage. After Dermot O'Leary introduced the star, it was several minutes before he eventually stepped through the curtains. Footage of the press conference on the star's official website was later edited to give the impression that he had sauntered immediately onstage.
When Jackson did take the stage he abandoned his teleprompter and gave a disjointed speech. Rather than the upbeat concert announcement fans had expected, they were instead subjected to a rambling retirement announcement in which Jackson sounded audibly irritated by the fact that he was to perform again, sternly informing the audience, "This is the final curtain call, OK
Caitlin Moran later wrote of the event
, "He seems borderline tetchy about being here at all... It sounds like a weary warning. I will not be performing for you now, is the subtext. I will give you nothing else... After announcing that that the concerts will be in July, and that he loves us all so, Jackson is gone - giving four minutes to people who have been waiting five hours, and 12 years, and a lifetime."
After Jackson left the stage one young female follower was carried from the building, sobbing that Jackson had sounded angry with his fans.
Reports suggested that Jackson later returned to his hotel drunk and complaining loudly about the prospect of his live comeback.
Since Jackson's announcement British tabloids have been awash with stories surrounding the upcoming concerts. These have included stories about four separate properties Jackson will supposedly live in (Rod Stewart's Essex mansion, a house on the Thames so he can travel to the concerts by boat, a castle built atop a network of haunted caves and a private house in suburban East London), stories about Jackson hiring David Copperfield to help orchestrate magic tricks, and suggestions that Jackson will enter the stage astride an elephant.
The Newshound can reveal that most, if not all of these stories, are false - but they are not the concoctions of tabloid reporters. The stories are in fact being systematically planted on an almost daily basis by concert promoters AEG Live, who have developed an obsession with keeping the concerts in the headlines.
The reason? Although the official line is that all of the concerts are sold out, the company is facing a ticketing crisis.
Just days after the concerts were announced, 'The Times' revealed
that AEG Live had secretly given up to 1000 tickets per concert to commercialised touting company Viagogo. The tickets would be sold at inflated prices on the condition that both companies shared the profits.
At the time a spokesperson defended the move, saying, "To suggest that there won't be a premium market is unrealistic." Indeed. But isn't that why several blocks of seats at each concert were reserved for £800-a-ticket premium packages?
After reserving several blocks per show for official premium packages and donating up to a further 1000 tickets per show to Viagogo, almost 10% of all seats for the residency were being sold for hugely inflated prices. That is without taking into account the number of business-minded buyers who snaffled tickets in the official sales with the specific intention of re-selling them for several times their face value on Ebay.
Consequently, although the shows are officially billed as 'sold out', somewhere in the region of 50,000-100,000 tickets currently remain onsale in the form of VIP packages on Ticketmaster, overpriced tickets on Seatwave and Viagogo and countless tickets being touted on Ebay.
AEG now has a dilemma on its hands. The company has fallen victim to its own greed. Bosses accurately predicted that the shows would be immensely popular and would sell out, leaving a huge excess demand. What they over-estimated, however, was the number of people who could actually afford to pay hundreds of pounds for a concert ticket.
As Britain slips deeper into recession, the number of punters with hundreds or, in many cases, thousands of pounds to spare for one pair of Michael Jackson tickets is dwindling and the Newshound is skeptical as to whether, even at the height of the economic boom, there were ever 50,000 people who would be willing to splash that much cash on a night out.
AEG's reaction has been to release a steady stream of false stories to the popular press in an attempt to keep the concerts on everybody's lips but, publicity or no publicity, the public simply cannot afford the extortionate Viagogo prices.
If sales of premium tickets remain slow, organisers face the prospect of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of empty seats at each of the 50 concerts. Worse still, some of the empty seats will be directly in front of the stage. Ironically, had the seats been included in the general sale they would have sold out immediately. As it stands, inflating the ticket prices has actually cost company bosses significant profits - not exactly the desired effect.
A final note from the Newshound on Jackson's father, who has recently hit headlines fo attempting to stage a coup and oust his son's current management. Reports suggest that Joseph Jackson emailed media outlets and fansites two weeks ago claiming he had assumed control of his son's affairs.
The 79 year old was reportedly hoping to cut himself in on Jackson's 50 nights in London and convince the star to piggyback a Jacksons reunion tour on his own solo success.
The debacle led to the publication of a strange article
by Celebrity Access wich seemed to quote Frank Dileo claiming to be Jackson's manager. This is not the case. Jackson is still managed by Dr Tohme Tohme and Colony Capital, but that Dileo is speaking on Jackson's behalf is an interesting development. The Newshound revealed
in April of last year that Dileo was becoming a more regular fixture in Jackson's camp.
The Newshound can reveal that Joseph Jackson has been trying to worm his way back into his son's affairs ever since he learnt that the O2 deal was being finalised. Jackson was sticking his nose in so regularly that staff involved in fundraising for the Jackson concerts believed he was integral to the deal. Jackson told them he was also arranging a Jacksons reunion concert to compliment the residency. Rumour was that a Jacksons concert at Wembley Stadium would be announced in early April, but evidently that did not happen.
The Newshound wonders, though, whether there may be some truth to the rumour. The Jacksons were involved in negotiations for a Wembley Stadium concert in Summer 2007 but the deal was never finalised. Reminiscent indeed of the O2 residency, which was first discussed over 18 months before it finally came to fruition.
As is always the case where Michael Jackson is concerned, only time will tell.
The Lowly Newshound