Ruthless. Duplicitous. Corrupt. Scuzzy. Any of those words would describe the manner in which Anschutz Entertainment Group handled preparations for Michael Jackson's 50-show concert tour. Emails uncovered by LAT reporter Harriet Ryan show that AEG executives were aware of Jackson's screwed-up state, and yet were determined to proceed with the tour. Even after the star's overdose, AEG promoter Randy Philips wrote to a colleague: "Michael's death is a terrible tragedy, but life must go on. AEG will make a fortune from merch sales, ticket retention, the touring exhibition and the film/dvd." Yes, this is the same AEG that the mayor and most members of the City Council are in bed with. I'd advise a second look. Here's how Ryan opened her Sunday story:
The scene in Michael Jackson's London hotel suite left Randy Phillips in a panic. Phillips was one of the world's most powerful music promoters and used to rock 'n' roll chaos, but the star's condition still floored him. "MJ is locked in his room drunk and despondent," Phillips said in an email to his boss at Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Los Angeles company staking a fortune on the singer. "I [am] trying to sober him up." Across the Atlantic, where it was still early morning, AEG President Tim Leiweke read the message and fired back on his BlackBerry: "Are you kidding me?" "I screamed at him so loud the walls are shaking," Phillips told him. "He is an emotionally paralyzed mess riddled with self loathing and doubt now that it is show time."
Insurers trying to nullify a $17.5-million policy on the tour say AEG misled them about Jackson's health and readiness to perform. Jackson's heirs accuse AEG of pressuring the pop star to proceed with the concerts despite indications that he couldn't handle it. Lawyers for AEG deny any wrongdoing, but these emails are killers. More from the Times:
Publicly, AEG projected confidence. "The man is very sane, the man is very focused, the man is very healthy," Leiweke assured a music industry symposium the day before the news conference. Jackson made it to London, but according to emails Phillips sent to Leiweke, the star was intoxicated and refused to leave his suite. In the end, the emails show, Phillips and Jackson's manager had to dress him. "He is scared to death," Phillips wrote to Leiweke. In an interview, AEG's attorney Putnam suggested Phillips had exaggerated in his emails and said Jackson's behavior appeared to be a case of "nerves." Jackson arrived 90 minutes late for the news conference and his brief comments struck some of the 350 reporters gathered as disjointed and strange. Still, fan enthusiasm was undeniable: Demand for an initial 10 shows crashed Ticketmaster's servers.