Michael Jackson: Estate Sued For Unpaid Legal Bills

U.K. law firm is asking the Michael Jackson estate to pay over $200,000 in legal fees for work done for the legendary King of Pop between 2007 and 2009 — the final years leading to his death.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Atkins Thompson Solicitors is suing music executive John McClain and attorney John Branca, executors of Jackson’s estate, for violation of contract in a state claim filed in California, Monday.

Atkins’ attorney, Stanton L. Stein, said in a complaint “the defendants have failed to honor Jackson’s obligations under, and has materially breached, the agreement with Atkins, and any implied covenants therein, by failing to make the payments as required.”

Atkins purports the firm offered legal services to the King of Pop, providing him hundreds of hours in services in more than a dozen matters regarding business in the United Kingdom. The firm said they filed a creditor’s claim in November, 2009, for $204,204.36, which the defendants refused to pay.

Attorney Howard Weitzman, for the Michael Jackson estate, said that “the estate did not believe the claim from attorneys that they did work for Michael Jackson.” Therefore, they plan to challenge the lawsuit. In addition to the amount owed, the plaintiffs are also seeking interest.

The Michael Jackson estate has been pulverized by lawsuits, including one from John Landis and George Folsey Jr, director and producer respectively for Thriller, which is arguably one of the greatest videos ever made.

In January, 2009, Landis and Folsey sued Michael Jackson and the company, Optimum Productions, alleging they were still owed proceeds from the revolutionary Thriller video that they helped create.

Although the musician died fewer than six months later, Landis and Folsey’s $2.3 million lawsuit continued against Michael Jackson’s estate.

Landis claims he owned over 50 percent of the “separated rights” to the Thriller video, which granted him “dramatic rights” like stage adaptations. Prior to the King of Pop’s death, Landis alleged that he had struck a deal with The Nederlander Organization to make a musical version of Thriller for $800,000, of which only $400,000 was paid.

Landis and Folsey Jr. eventually reached an agreement in which a probate judge signed off. Although the specific terms are confidential, Michael Jackson’s estate confirmed the deal resolved the conflict over gross profits from the late singer’s video and the squabble over a planned musical production base on the video.

Ola Ray, the actress who played Jackson’s date in the Thriller video, also reached a settlement with the estate for money she claims she was owed.

Michael Jackson’s debts, which allegedly exceed $500 million, may soon be a thing of the past as Sony Music bought out the late singer’s stake in the company for $750 million. Bloomberg reports Jackson purchased the ATV catalog for $41.5 million in 1985.

John Branca and John McClain in a statement said it “further validated Michael’s foresight in investing in music publishing, adding that the ‘transaction would allow further efforts of maximizing the value of the Michael Jackson Estate for the benefit of the kids he left behind.’ “

Per the terms of the agreement, Sony made a lump payment of $733 million for the 50 percent stake in Sony/ATV Music publishing. Michael Jackson’s estate will maintain the rights to all his master recordings and a stake in EMI Music Publishing. Damian Thong, an analyst, said that “Sony was actually paying less than what the stake was worth.”

[Photo by Joshua Gates Weisberg-Pool/Getty Images]