- Associated Press - Sunday, August 26, 2012

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 center 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 ensure 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 Mr. Branca, suggesting the future for his three young children was uncertain. “Now we know the kids will be OK.”


Mr. 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. He resolutely refused to address the elephant in the room — recent attacks on him and Mr. 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 manipulation 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.

Mr. Branca and Mr. 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, Mr. 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 catalog, 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, Mr. 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 catalogs has been renegotiated.

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

The estate pays Katherine 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.

Mr. 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, Mr. Branca spoke of upcoming ventures he thinks would have delighted Jackson, especially a permanent Jackson-themed extravaganza on the Las Vegas Strip. It comes on the heels of the Cirque du Soleil Jackson tribute show, “Immortal: The World Tour.”

“The Lion King” theater at the Mandalay Bay Hotel is being rebuilt to house the still untitled show, also a Cirque du Soleil production, which is set to open May 23.

“It will be highly theatrical and completely different from the arena show, which was more of a concert,” Mr. Branca said. “We will have the opportunity to create something special and ground-breaking.”

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