- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Sony Corp.’s movie studio has bid $50 million to acquire the worldwide distribution rights to a film based on rehearsal footage for Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” comeback concert series, according to a person familiar with the bid.

The person said Monday that the bid came after several studios, including Paramount, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., were shown footage starting early last week. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the bidding had not been completed.

The winning studio would produce the film with Mr. Jackson’s concert promoter, AEG Live, and his estate.

It would go a long way to helping AEG Live recoup some of the $30 million to $32 million it spent producing the concert before the superstar entertainer died June 25.

Sony Pictures has a leg up on other bidders because Sony Music distributes Mr. Jackson’s music and is in a 50-50 partnership with his estate in Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

The bidding was reported earlier by the Los Angeles Times and industry blogger Nikki Finke.

The estate and AEG Live also are negotiating with several television networks and pay-per-view outlets on a TV special that would be a stage show featuring Mr. Jackson’s music and dancing. It would be directed by “This Is It” director Kenny Ortega.

The selling price being discussed for the rights to show the TV special is also in the tens of millions of dollars.

General Electric Co.’s NBC has been in talks on the TV show, but the concept, air date and cost for the rights has not been finalized, says NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks.

“We have no deal for the rights to the Michael Jackson special,” Miss Marks says.

The special administrators of Mr. Jackson’s estate, attorney John Branca and former music executive John McClain, have been moving quickly to secure Mr. Jackson’s assets and cut deals to capitalize on the surge in interest in the King of Pop since his sudden death.

Last week, Mr. Branca and Mr. McClain received signed court papers authorizing them to act on his estate’s behalf until another hearing Aug. 3. Mr. McClain has been sorting through unreleased Jackson recordings, while Sony Music is interested in releasing a commemorative album. Music sales have soared.

Mr. Jackson’s 2002 will named the two men as executors and directs all of his assets be placed in a trust that will benefit his mother Katherine Jackson, his three children, and unnamed children’s charities. The estate is estimated to be worth more than $500 million.

But Katherine Jackson’s lawyers on Friday sought a judge’s ruling on whether she can challenge the authority of the men without triggering a “no contest” clause in the trust that would cause her to be disinherited.

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