Yesterday, a Los Angeles jury determined that AEG Live, owned by local gazillionaire Phil Anschutz, was not responsible for singer Michael Jackson's June 2009 death despite having hired Dr. Conrad Murray, currently serving time for his role in the tragedy.
The result is another win for Anschutz, who initially seemed likely to lose big money due to Jackson's demise but managed to emerge financially unscathed.
Details, photos and video below.
Jackson died on June 25, 2009, less than three weeks prior to the planned launch of a fifty-date European tour dubbed "This Is It" that AEG Live bankrolled -- and even before his passing, pundits were speculating about whether the King of Pop would be healthy enough to star in so many concerts over such a compressed time period. Moreover, any failure on this score put AEG Live at risk of big losses.
Back in March of that year, as noted in our previous coverage, Reinsurance, a trade magazine, reported that AEG Live was only able to secure insurance for the first ten shows on the schedule -- and Jackson's press conference announcing the tour didn't bolster confidence that he'd be strong enough to complete such a grueling schedule. Here's a look at that appearance:
AEG Live chief executive Randy Phillips subsequently disputed the ten-dates-insured reports, saying insurance had been secured for 23 out of fifty. But that still left AEG Live facing potential losses in the tens of millions -- and the company also paid for the enormous memorial service at L.A.'s Staples Center (which Anschutz owns) in early July.
But Anschutz didn't make his money by being stupid, and by October 2009, reports surfaced that he'd already made back everything he'd lost on the canceled tour thanks to the documentary film This Is It. Jackson's family reportedly received 90 percent of the profits from the movie, with AEG Live collecting the remain 10 percent, and the $36 million the company is said to have invested in the tour was more than offset by the $60 million Sony paid for the rehearsal footage that formed the backbone of the flick.
Of course, AEG Live received plenty of negative publicity as a result of assorted court actions in recent years, including the 2011 trial of Dr. Murray. One of the most shocking moments during the proceedings was a recording of Jackson speaking in a barely understandable and apparently drugged-out slur. Here's that clip:
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The just-ended trial, prompted by a lawsuit against AEG Live by the Jackson family, brought even more of a PR hit for Anschutz's firm -- and after the verdict, plenty of Jackson's fans and supporters were incensed.
Then again, AEG Live is now off the hook for damages that could have extended beyond the billion-dollar mark if the jurors had chosen a different path. And Anschutz's reputation as one of the sharpest businessmen in the history of Colorado holds firm.
More from our Television & Film archive circa October 2009: "Phil Anschutz's profits on Michael Jackson's This Is It film: Ka-ching!"