Ex­ecu­tor ig­nores Jack­son fam­ily drama

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

LOS ANGELES — While fam­ily mem­bers squab­ble in pub­lic over Michael Jack­son’s money, the man who holds the purse strings of the es­tate is a calm cen­tre of the storm.

As co-ex­ecu­tor of Jack­son’s will, John Branca chooses to ig­nore the erupt­ing dra­mas and per­sonal at­tacks and keeps his eye on the fu­ture, which he says be­longs to Jack­son’s mother and chil­dren and to the pop star’s mu­si­cal legacy.

He and co-ex­ecu­tor John McClain have been suc­cess­fully pur­su­ing projects to pay off a moun­tain of debt left by the su­per­star, to as­sure the fi­nan­cial fu­ture of his three chil­dren and to guar­an­tee that Jack­son’s mu­sic will live for­ever.

“When Michael Jack­son died, he was near bank­ruptcy,” said Branca, sug­gest­ing the fu­ture for his three young chil­dren was un­cer­tain. “Now we know the kids will be OK.”

Branca sat down re­cently with The As­so­ci­ated Press to dis­cuss the cur­rent state of the Jack­son es­tate and projects to pre­serve Jack­son’s im­age as the King of Pop. But he res­o­lutely re­fused to ad­dress the ele­phant in the room — re­cent at­tacks on him and McClain by some Jack­son sib­lings who were left out of their brother’s will.

They sent a lengthy let­ter that be­came pub­lic ac­cus­ing the ex­ecu­tors of de­ceit and ma- nip­u­la­tion of their mother and claim­ing that Jack­son’s will was a fraud. They have not taken any court ac­tion and le­gal ex­perts say the time to chal­lenge the will, which dis­in­her­ited them, is long past.

Branca and McClain is­sued a state­ment call­ing the ac­cu­sa­tions “false and defam­a­tory,” adding “we are es­pe­cially dis­heart­ened that they come at a time when re­mark­able progress is be­ing made to se­cure the fi­nan­cial fu­ture of his chil­dren ...”

Se­cure in his knowl­edge that all four of Jack­son’s wills named him as ex­ecu­tor, Branca con­tin­ues to make deals for the Jack­son es­tate that are gen­er­at­ing mil­lions in rev­enue. This week, they an­nounced an agree­ment with Sony/ATV Mu­sic Pub­lish­ing to ad­min­is­ter Jack­son’s Mi­jac Mu­sic cat­a­logue, which in­cludes such hits as Beat It and Bil­lie Jean. The deal is expected to gen­er­ate enough rev­enues to pay off a re­main­ing $5 mil­lion loan by year’s end.

Since Jack­son’s death on June 25, 2009, Branca said the singer’s per­sonal debt of $200 mil­lion has been paid off and an­other $300 mil­lion tied to his own­er­ship of the Sony and ATV cat­a­logues has been rene­go­ti­ated.

“Michael had a will and a trust and that’s what we fol­low,” he said.

The es­tate pays Mrs. Jack­son $70,000 a month for the chil­dren’s sup­port, pays the rent on their man­sion in Cal­abasas, and is pick­ing up bills for other ex­penses in­clud­ing ren­o­va­tion of their En­cino home.

Branca’s AP in­ter­view was his in­di­rect re­sponse to ac­cu­sa­tions by Janet, Jer­maine, Randy and Reb­bie Jack­son that the es­tate was be­ing mis­han­dled. Jer­maine later dis­avowed the in­cen­di­ary let­ter and called for peace in the fam­ily. But Janet, Randy and Reb­bie fired back with a let­ter of their own re­it­er­at­ing their com­plaints.

Brim­ming with ex­cite­ment, Branca spoke of up­com­ing ven­tures he thinks would have de­lighted Jack­son, es­pe­cially a per­ma­nent Jack­son­themed ex­trav­a­ganza on the Las Ve­gas Strip. It comes on the heels of the Cirque du Soleil Jack­son trib­ute show, Im­mor­tal: The World Tour.

Branca and co-ex­ecu­tor McClain, a reclu­sive record­ing ex­ec­u­tive, say they un­der­stand Jack­son’s de­sires to take care of his mother and chil­dren — Prince, Paris and Blan­ket — fi­nan­cially and keep his mu­sic alive.

“We feel Michael en­trusted us with his legacy and with the fu­ture of his mother and chil­dren,” Branca said. “We’re hon­oured and proud and pas­sion­ate about cel­e­brat­ing Michael. It’s a labour of love for us. We love Michael.”

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