Never underestimate the ability of Phil Anschutz's boys to make a buck - even under the most challenging circumstances. AEG Live, promoter of the Michael Jackson shows in London and a division of the Anschutz Entertainment Group empire, stands to recoup a big chunk of its investment, something that would have seemed unlikely just a few days ago. "People have speculated that this is going to bankrupt our company," AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips said on Thursday. "The truth is it isn't."
AEG has come up with two golden opportunities:
--An ingenious stunt in which nearly 1 million ticket-holders are given the choice of a full refund or a special commemorative ticket that features a three-dimensional image of Jackson. "So let's get this straight," blogs Neil McCormick of the London Telegraph, "somebody who has spent around £75 to go to a gig is being offered a souvenir ticket in its place, a printed piece of paper that they should have received anyway..." Well, yes, and according to AEG about 40 percent to 50 percent have so far opted for the souvenir ticket. At that rate, the company breaks even on the box office gate.
--A possible movie based on video and audio footage of Jackson's rehearsals. "We own the intellectual property," Phillips tells Billboard. "It is our responsibility and fiduciary duty to the estate to monetize as much of these assets as we can under the original contract, because the majority of the profit would go to the estate."
Still unclear is how much AEG would recoup from the maze of insurance coverage. Much will depend on the toxicology results from the autopsy. Phillips tells the LAT that if the death is the result of an accidental overdose, "we claim the full $17.6 million." Also not known are the economics of Tuesday's memorial service at Staples. Staging that event will not be cheap, especially with the mess that's likely to unfold outside the arena. But you can bet the AEG will be looking for whatever revenue possibilities might be available.