By Robert Frank
It’s well known that Michael Jackson died with piles of debt.
Despite his millions of records sold, he spent money faster than an Arab prince, but without the recurring oil income. A recent article by Ethan Smith in the Wall Street Journal said Mr. Jackson had debts of up to $500 million.
Still, Mr. Jackson made one smart financial bet during his life: buying the 50% interest in a music publishing catalog that includes the rights to 251 Beatles’ songs. Estimates for that stake range from $500 million to $1 billion, if you also include the rights to his own songs.
The big question: How will all his debts balance out with the Beatle’s songs and other assets?
The Journal article said the value of Mr. Jackson’s biggest assets probably still exceeds his growing debt, citing sources familiar with his finances. (Mr. Jackson’s spokespeople didn’t comment at the time).
The answer is sure to provide a lifetime annuity for scores of trust and estate lawyers. His estate is complicated by his family and siblings: three children by different women, his brothers, sister, mom and dad.
Mr. Jackson’s latest financial backers included Thomas Barrack, the founder of the Los Angeles real estate firm Colony Capital who bought Neverland for $22 million and is putting millions into the estate to fix it up for resale, and Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, the family-values crusader who was helping finance Jacko’s comeback concert tour. It’s unclear how Mr. Anschutz’s deal may come out in the financial wash.
Whatever the outcome, the Jackson estate will likely make for big headlines long after the music is gone.