If you haven't yet heard the recording of a doped-up Michael Jackson played in the Dr. Conrad Murray trial (check it out below), you'll be shocked. But while Murray's the man in the hot seat, will the case's revelations splash back on Denver's Phil Anschutz, who stood to profit handsomely had Jackson been able to headline the tour he was financing?
If this snippet of audio is any indication, trial observers may be left wondering if pressure on Jackson to tour hastened his death.
Of course, our hometown gazillionaire didn't escape from the tour's cancellation financially unscathed. Shortly after Jackson's June 2009 death, speculators wondered how much money Anschutz would lose. Three months earlier, the trade magazine Reinsurance reported that AEG Live, the Anschutz-owned promotion wing behind Jackon's "This Is It" tour, was only able to secure insurance for the first ten of fifty dates due to fears about MJ's sturdiness, or lack thereof. AEG Live chief executive Randy Phillips later said 23 of the gigs had been insured. But that still suggested a financial bath in the tens of millions. And AEG Live also handled ticketing for the lavish Jackson memorial at Los Angeles' Staples Center, a venue Anschutz owns. The event likely resulted in a net loss, too.
But within months, Anschutz was able to turn these fiscal minuses into a plusses. By late October, he'd reportedly made back the $36 million the non-tour cost him by selling "This Is It" rehearsal footage to Sony for $60 million. And he also had a sizable piece of the This Is It movie, which proved to be a cash cow as well.
Even so, Anschutz wasn't pilloried for profiting from Jackson's demise, in part because he's so adept at manipulating the press. He's in the process of purchasing the Oklahoman newspaper -- the deal also includes Colorado Springs' Broadmoor Hotel -- and a recent profile of him by the paper couldn't have been puffier if it'd been printed on a cotton ball.
Indeed, the Columbia Journalism Review's Ryan Chittum made the article the centerpiece of his new column "How Not to Cover Your Paper's New Owner." After quoting a reference to Anschutz's belief in family values, Chittum writes, "Is 'family values' code for "finances anti-gay issues" and misinformation about evolution? That certainly doesn't put him out of line with political thought in my home state, of course, or with the paper's editorial history, but it's a disservice to readers not to report it. Let's face it: Anschutz is probably not buying a newspaper in 2011 to make money."
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Granted, Jackson's obsession with making a comeback might have led him to an early grave even if AEG Live never pushed him to headline a grueling tour he seemed far too weak to complete. But the more testimony about such subjects is heard, the likelier Anschutz and his company could wind up looking bad -- and not in the way Jackson redefined the term.
Here's the Jackson recording played at the trial: