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Michael Jackson's troubled financial legacy: Alexander Smith

-- Alexander Smith is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Michael Jackson waves to the crowd, numbering a few thousand, gathered in front of the Sydney Opera House in this November 17, 1996 file photo. Michael Jackson, the child star turned King of Pop who set the world dancing but whose musical genius was overshadowed by a bizarre lifestyle and sex scandals, died on June 25, 2009. He was 50. REUTERS/Megan Lewis/Files

LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Jackson’s will is bound to be as bizarre as the rest of the singer’s turbulent life. But one thing is for sure, the arguments over his deeply flawed financial legacy will keep lawyers busy for years.

Top of the list will be sorting out Jackson’s sell-out comeback tour, which was due to kick off next month. There are bound to be losses, insurance claims and the prospect of an empty London O2 Arena for 50 nights during the peak summer period.

Music industry bible Billboard reckons promoter AEG Live could lose as much as $40 million if its insurance is insufficient to cover what has already been spent on the production. That’s assuming they have to give refunds to the 750,000 fans who have paid big money for tickets. And that doesn’t count the cost of hotel reservations and flights from across the world.

Then there’s the small issue of the $500 million in debts that Jackson is reported to have left behind.

Bizarrely, Sir Paul McCartney, the super-rich former Beatle, could be one of the beneficiaries of Jackson’s will. Reports earlier this year said Jackson had left McCartney his stake in the Beatles’ song catalog. But given that this share already has a $200 million loan secured against it, there could be a few court hearings before the former Beatle gets the songs back in his own collection.

Some estimate that Jackson’s top assets, including copyrights to his own songs and the Beatles song catalog stake, are worth more than $1 billion.

No doubt Jackson’s family, his creditors, and partners such as Los Angeles-based real estate investment trust Colony Capital LLC and music catalog joint venture partner Sony Corp, will all be laying claim to some of these assets.

The self-styled King of Pop’s music will live on in his recordings, but its a fair bet that the legacy of his high-spending lifestyle will be around for a good few years too.

-- At the time of publication Alexander Smith did not own any direct investments in securities mentioned in this article. He may be an owner indirectly as an investor in a fund. For previous columns, Reuters’ customers can click on --

Editing by David Evans