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19 Apr 2010

Timeline of Michael Jackson’s publicly known dealings with Sony

Compiled by Bonnie Vent from assorted Wikipedia records and Snopes. 


Michael Jackson obtains the 4000-song music catalog publishing rights to most of the Beatles songs with the assistance of John Branca.


Jackson abruptly left Branca in 1990 when record company mogul David Geffen convinced him that Branca exerted too much control. Jackson re-hired Branca three years later, and Jackson appointed Branca as one of his representatives on the Board of Sony/ATV.


In 1995, Jackson merged his ATV Music catalog with Sony's publishing division creating Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Jackson retained half-ownership of the company, earned $95 million upfront as well as the rights to even more songs. 


In May 2001, Jackson denied rumors that he was planning to sell the Beatles' song catalog. Rumors had circulated that the singer was to sell them in order to finance the upkeep of Neverland Ranch and to cover legal bill expenses.[13] The singer announced in a statement, "I want to clarify a silly rumor - the Beatles catalogue is not for sale, has not been for sale and will never be for sale."[13]

In October 2001, Jackson released Invincible. This was his first full-length album in six years, and it turned out to be the last album of new material he released while still alive. The release of the album was preceded by a dispute between Jackson and his record label, Sony Music Entertainment. Jackson had expected the licenses to the masters of his albums to revert to him sometime in the early 2000s. Once he had the licenses, he would be able to promote the material however he pleased and he would also be able to keep all the profits. However, due to various clauses in the contract, the revert date turned out to be many years away. Jackson discovered that the attorney who represented him in the deal was also representing Sony.[128] Jackson was also concerned about another conflict of interest. For a number of years, Sony had been pushing to buy all of Jackson's share in their music catalog venture. Jackson feared that Sony might have something to gain from Jackson's career failing, since if his career did fail he would have to sell his share of the catalog.

These conflicts were utilized by the entertainer to leverage an early exit to his contract.[128] Just before the release of Invincible, Jackson informed the head of Sony Music Entertainment, Tommy Mottola, that he was leaving Sony.[128] As a result, all singles releases, video shootings and promotions concerning the Invincible album were canceled.


In 2002 Sony released a compilation of Jackson's hits on CD and DVD. In the US, the album was certified platinum by the RIAA; in the UK it was certified for shipments of at least 1.2 million units



In a series of interviews with Martin Bashir, broadcast in 2003, as Living with Michael Jackson, Jackson was seen holding hands and discussing sleeping arrangements with Gavin Arvizo, 13, who later accused him of sexual abuse.[140] Shortly after the documentary aired, Jackson was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in relation to Arvizo.[140] Jackson denied the allegations, saying the sleepovers were not sexual in nature.


During the two years between the charges and the trial, Jackson reportedly became dependent on pethidine (Demerol), and lost a lot of weight. The People v. Jackson began on January 31, 2005, in Santa Maria, California, and lasted five months, until the end of May. On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted on all counts.[141][142][143] After the trial, in a highly publicized relocation he moved to the Persian Gulf island of Bahrain, as a guest of Sheikh Abdullah.[144]


Reports of financial problems for Jackson became frequent in 2006, after the closure of the main house on the Neverland Ranch as a cost-cutting measure.[145] One prominent financial issue concerned a $270 million loan secured against his music publishing holdings. After delayed repayments on the loan, a refinancing package shifted the loans from Bank of America to debt specialists Fortress Investments. A new package proposed by Sony would have had Jackson borrow an additional $300 million and reduce the interest rate payable on the loan, while giving Sony the future option to buy half of Jackson's stake in their jointly owned publishing company (leaving Jackson with a 25% stake).[117] Jackson agreed to a Sony-backed refinancing deal, although details were not made public.[146] Despite these loans, according to Forbes, Jackson was still making as much as $75 million a year from his publishing partnership with Sony alone.[147]

In 2006, Branca resigned as Jackson's lawyer and sold back his equity interest in Sony/ATV


To celebrate Jackson's 50th birthday, Sony BMG released a series of compilation albums called King of Pop.[160][161] King of Pop did reach the top 10 in most countries where it was issued, and also sold well as an import in other countries.[162][163]

Fortress Investments threatened to foreclose on Neverland Ranch, which Jackson used as collateral for loans running into many tens of millions of dollars. However, Fortress opted to sell Jackson's debts to Colony Capital LLC. In November, Jackson transferred Neverland Ranch's title to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company LLC, which was a joint venture between Jackson and Colony Capital LLC. This deal cleared Jackson's debt, and he reportedly even gained an extra $35 million from the venture. At the time of his death, Jackson still owned a stake in Neverland/Sycamore Valley, but it is unknown how large that stake was.[164][165][166] In September 2008, financial concerns prompted Jackson to enter negotiations with Julien's Auction House to display and auction a large collection of memorabilia amounting to approximately 1390 lots. The auction was scheduled to take place between April 22 and April 25.[167] Though an exhibition of the lots opened on 9900 Wilshire Blvd between April 14 and 25, the auction was eventually cancelled at Jackson's request.[168]


In March 2009, Jackson announced in a press conference at London's O2 arena that he would perform there in major comeback concerts titled This Is It. The shows, Jackson's first major series of concerts since the HIStory World Tour finished in 1997, had been cited as one of the year's most important musical events with over one million people attending in total. Jackson suggested possible retirement after the shows; in his own words it would be his "final curtain call". Although initially a 10 date concert, it was increased to 50 dates after record breaking ticket sales. Jackson rehearsed in Los Angeles in the weeks leading up to the tour under the direction of choreographer/director Kenny Ortega.[169] AEG Live, the concert promoters, released a promotional video that took up an entire commercial break, setting a record for ITV. According to Jackson's website, ticket sales for the concerts broke several records.[170] Randy Phillips, president and chief executive of AEG Live, stated that the first 10 dates alone would have earned the singer approximately £50 million.[171] The concerts would have commenced on July 13, 2009 and finished on March 6, 2010. Less than three weeks before the first show was due to begin in London and with all concerts being sold out, Jackson died of cardiac arrest.[172]

Columbia Pictures made a feature documentary concert-film from the rehearsal and pre-recorded footage. The contract for the film stipulated that a cut of the film must be screened for Jackson's estate, which stands to receive 90 percent of the profits.[173] A final cut was released on October 28, 2009, for a limited 2 week run in theatres worldwide.[174] A promotional single titled "This Is It" was released on October 12, with a new compilation album of the same name released worldwide on October 26, and in North America on October 27, the day before the Michael Jackson's This Is It documentary film, which became the highest grossing documentary or concert movie of all time (earning more than $260 million worldwide).[175] Two versions of the new song appear on the album, which also features original masters of Michael Jackson's hits in the order in which they appear in the movie. It contains a bonus disc with previously unreleased versions of more Jackson hits, as well as a previously unheard spoken word poem entitled "Planet Earth."[176] As a result of increased sales of Jackson's music after his death, he became the best-selling artist of 2009 in the United States selling over 8.2 million albums and 31 million albums worldwide.[177][178]

Approximately three weeks before Michael Jackson died,  Branca was rehired.

Shortly after Michael Jackson’s death Branca produced a Will executed on March 22, 2002 making him the executor of Michael Jackson’s estate.

Posthumous works

Following Jackson's death in June 2009, it was revealed that Sony/ATV Music Publishing would keep control of the Beatles' songs.[22] Upon his death, Jackson's entertainment attorney, Joel Katz, commented on the singer's work as a businessman. "Michael Jackson was a perfectionist and his business affairs are worldwide. Many of them are quite ongoing and will be dealt with appropriately."[22] Ivan Thornton, a private-wealth adviser who worked with Jackson and his family, also commended the business side of the musician. "His business mind was fascinating. We’d go to meetings with bankers and Wall Street people and once I explained the language to him, he totally got it. There was no formal education there, but his natural knack was off the charts."[22]

Following the massive surge in sales of Jackson's catalogue of recordings, Sony announced that they have extended their relationship with his material. The distribution rights held by Sony Music were due to expire in 2015.[20] On March 16, 2010, Sony Music Entertainment, spearheaded by its Columbia/Epic Label Group division, signed a new deal with the Jackson estate to extend distribution rights to his back catalogue until at least 2017, as well as permission to release ten new albums with previously unreleased material and new collections of released work. The first new album is reportedly due out in November 2010, and the final album before December 2017. The deal was unprecedented in the music industry as it is the most expensive music contract to a single artist in history, with Sony Music reportedly paying $250 million for the deal and with the Jackson estate getting the full sum as well as its share of royalties for all works released.[20][179]


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