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Michael Jackson was more than $500 million in debt at the time of his death, court filing shows

The King of Pop's 2009 death came ahead of a concert tour, leaving his estate financially liable to the event's promoter on top of mountains of other debts.
Michael Jackson
Posted at 8:04 PM, Jun 28, 2024

Michael Jackson died with a mountain of debt totaling more than $500 million, according to a recent court filing from the King of Pop's estate.

Jackson's financial woes were known prior to the new filing — the result of exorbitant spending habits that left him owing millions back in bank loans, missed property payments and on the verge of bankruptcy.

This was compounded by funds spent preparing for his This Is It tour residency in London, scheduled to begin in July 2009. It was seen as a comeback of sorts, as it was his first major show since his 1997 HIStory World Tour. Jackson rehearsed for weeks leading up to the 50-date engagement, but he died on June 25, less than three weeks before shows were to begin.

However, the pop star's death didn't absolve his estate of the roughly $40 million owed to the tour promoter A.E.G. or of other debts to the 65 creditors who made claims against Jackson after his death. Some claims which prompted lawsuits and accrued high rates of interest, according to the documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly.

In a different filing in March, the executors of Jackson's estate, attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain, stated the level of debt Jackson's estate faced at the time of the star's death was overwhelming. Now the new filing says that in the years since, the agents and their lawyers have been able to renegotiate and restructure those debts, ultimately eliminating them and settling or disposing of most of the creditors' claims and lawsuits without the loss of any assets.

But in doing so, the executors say there have continued to be challenges financially and legally, including a pending final decision in its dispute with the IRS. In 2021, the agency accused Jackson's estate of owing $700 million in taxes and penalties, but the estate disputed the claims and won its case the same year. However, the estate's motion for a reconsideration due to the value of the star's music catalog is still pending.

These details were all listed as background in the filing, which ultimately requests more than $3.5 million in reimbursements to the various legal firms that provided services to the estate and its executors in 2018. That year, the estate sold its stake in EMI Music Publishing to Sony for $300 million.