Michael Jackson Estate Sued After Shutting Down Tribute Film

Sharad Chandra Patel, a producer and father of the late former producer Raju Patel, filed a lawsuit against Michael Jackson’s estate this week after a previous creditor’s claim was denied in September. He asserts that he’s being denied the chance to make a film dedicated to Jackson’s fans, although his son had a contract with the King of Pop.

Rolling Stone reports that the lawsuit, filed on Thursday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that Patel’s late son, Raju Patel, had an entertainment company with Jackson, known as Neverland Entertainment. A contract was reportedly created by the King of Pop and the deceased Patel in 2002 that states all proceeds from any films made by the company were to be split 50/50, and in the event of a death, a “nominee” would be entitled to continue on with the film. The elder Patel, who says he is his son’s nominee, states that Jackson’s estate is not honoring the contract.

According to the complaint, Raju, who passed away from cancer in 2005, stood by Jackson after he was accused of child molestation in 2003. Raju’s father stated that Jackson wanted to make a film after the scandal slowed down, honoring the millions of fans who stood by the singer throughout the accusations, and he wanted to make the film with Raju, a producer whose previous credits include Bachelor Party and The New Adventures of Pinocchio.

Three months before Raju passed away, Jackson is said to have signed a contract with him to make Messages to Michael.

The Hollywood Reporter reports that in the six years since Michael Jackson passed away, Sharad has been unsuccessfully trying to obtain access to the singer’s music and home videos that would help him complete the film. Sharad claims that John Branca and John McClain, the executors of Jackson’s estate, continue to stall and block him. According to the lawsuit,

“Michael wanted to create a film tribute to the dedicated fans who stood by him during difficult times when many others turned their backs on Michael. Michael trusted his good friend and filmmaker, Raju, to make the film a reality [But Branca and McClain] have disregarded the terms of the agreement, as well as Michael’s wishes for his fans, because [they] are simply motivated by the biggest payday.”

Sharad’s attorneys state that part of the contract signed by Raju and Jackson indicates that the film is to be made with the cooperation of the Jackson Estate, but the estate instead chose to back the 2009 documentary, This Is It. Furthermore, the estate is accused of taking “a 90 percent share of film profits” for This Is It, which Sharad says is obviously much more than the 50/50 profit that was created under contract between his son and Jackson.

In 2010, Sharad filed a creditor’s claim against the estate, but it took five years for a judge to finally deny it. Now, Sharad is seeking to use pre-existing materials that the estate has been privy to.

“Sharad is seeking access to pre-existing materials, including music rights and home video footage, promised under the agreement now owned by Michael’s estate for use in the film.”

Estate attorney Howard Weitzman stated that Sharad’s lawsuit is simply “another meritless lawsuit filed against the Jackson Estate.” Hollywood litigator Larry Stein is representing Sharad Patel.

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