Two weeks after Michael Jackson’s death, administrators of his estate are temporarily authorized to reopen for business and negotiate, among other things, agreements relating to the singer’s ill-fated “This Is It” concert tour.
While fans in London on Monday lit candles and placed flowers outside the 02 Arena where the entertainer was due to begin his run of 50 concerts, lawyers were in a Los Angeles Superior Court ironing out details of the powers given to two men named by Jackson to administer his estate.
Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff conferred wide-ranging authority on attorney John Branca and recording executive John McClain, at least until Aug. 3 when another hearing is scheduled.
The list of powers for the administrators includes taking control of all of Jackson’s physical assets and placing them in secure storage facilities; hiring people with expertise in handling various aspects of the estate with fees subject to court approval; and handling tax matters.
The judge also authorized Branca and McClain to negotiate with AEG, the producers of the concert, for the benefit of the estate.
Attorney Paul Gordon Hoffman, a member of the team representing Branca and McClain, said a quick court order was needed so the two men could “begin to take the actions necessary to preserve the assets of the estate and address the needs” of Jackson’s three children.
Meanwhile, papers filed in court showed Jackson’s mother, Katherine, is seeking a stronger role in her late son’s affairs.
Hoffman said in a nine-page declaration that as late as 4:10 p.m. Sunday, an attorney for the Jackson family sent an e-mail “stating that it was his intent to have the order reflect that Katherine Jackson should be treated like a third trustee.”
Hoffman argued that to gain that power, attorneys for Katherine Jackson would need to appear and submit a competing proposed order. No such order was submitted.
The judge signed the papers without hearing further argument.
Hoffman said in his filing that Branca and McClain have been submitting to Katherine Jackson’s lawyers “voluminous and continuous information on the business opportunities being presented and their responses or intended responses.”
Hoffman said Katherine Jackson’s lawyers “have stated that they were pleased with the information being provided, and that their objections were not predicated on the actual provision of information, but rather on the lack of a formal role for Katherine Jackson or a court-ordered requirement that the information be provided.”
Attorney Burt Levitch, who appeared for Katherine Jackson, referred questions to New York lawyer Londell McMillan. A call to McMillan was not immediately returned on Monday. Branca’s lawyer, Howard Weitzman, declined to comment.
Beckloff stated at a hearing July 6 that he was not appointing Katherine Jackson as a co-administrator but suggested she should be kept aware of what the administrators are doing. He suggested he should be notified as well.
Also Monday, the judge formally revoked his earlier order that gave Katherine Jackson limited powers over some of her son’s possessions when it was believed he died without a will.
Jackson died on June 25, leaving a will that provided for a trust to be administered by Branca and McClain. The beneficiaries named were his mother, his three children and an unnamed group of children’s charities.