- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2009

LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s longtime attorney and a family friend should take over the pop singer’s estate, a judge said Monday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff issued his ruling after a court hearing Monday morning. Attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain had been designated in Mr. Jackson’s 2002 will as the people he wanted to administer his estate.

Mr. Jackson died June 25, deeply in debt, but a court filing estimates that his estate will be worth more than $500 million.

The singer’s mother, Katherine Jackson, had applied to oversee her son’s estate, but that was before the will surfaced. Her attorney, Burt Levitch, expressed concerns about Mr. McClain and Mr. Branca’s financial leadership.

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Mr. Levitch told Judge Beckloff that Mr. Branca previously had been removed from financial positions of authority by Mr. Jackson. Mr. Branca’s attorney says he was rehired by Mr. Jackson on June 17, days before the singer’s death.

Mrs. Jackson did not appear at Monday’s hearing. Mr. Branca did attend.

Mr. Branca and Mr. McClain will have to post a $1 million bond on the estate, Judge Beckloff ruled. Their authority over the estate will expire Aug. 3, when another hearing on the estate will be held.

Mrs. Jackson’s attorneys had asked that she be appointed to serve as a co-administrator with Mr. Branca and Mr. McClain.

Judge Beckloff did not grant that request. He now is considering which powers over the estate to give to Mr. McClain and Mr. Branca. The judge will take that issue up after a short recess.

“Frankly, Mrs. Jackson has concerns about handing over the keys to the kingdom,” said John E. Schreiber, an attorney for Mrs. Jackson.

Paul Gordon Hoffman, an attorney for Mr. Branca and Mr. McClain, said some of Mrs. Jackson’s concerns were unfounded.

“We’re not aware of any real conflicts at all,” he said in response to a claim that the men may have business dealings with parties such as concert promoter AEG Live.

In contrast, Mr. Hoffman said Mr. Jackson’s mother had more of a potential conflict administering the estate because she is a likely beneficiary.

“If there are any conflicts by the parties, Katherine Jackson rather than Mr. McClain and Mr. Branca have them,” Mr. Hoffman said.

A public memorial has been scheduled for Mr. Jackson in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday. More than 1.6 million people registered to win the coveted free tickets, and only 8,750 names were chosen.

Los Angeles officials are concerned about other fans clogging city streets

Downtown hotels were filling quickly on Monday, and police warned those without tickets to the memorial to stay away.

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