Tuesday, June 25, 2013 | 4:33 p.m.
It’s ironic that when Michael Jackson died four years ago today, he was broke and in massive debt — and the “This Is It” London show run he was rehearsing would have bailed him out of more than $500 million in financial troubles.
The one-time Las Vegas resident died of a fatal dose of the medical anesthetic Propofol that Dr. Conrad Murray administered to help him sleep three days before flying to England to start “It.” The production collapsed, yet incredibly 48 months later is still the subject of the current ugly trial in Los Angeles.
Thanks to his executors keeping Michael’s legacy alive, The King of Pop’s debts have been fully paid, and his estate has gone from near financial ruin to a giant moneymaking machine worth at least $600 million and growing larger every day — a $1.1 billion turnaround. Music industry experts say that’s more than any other single living artist made in the same time period.
Estate lawyer and co-executor John Branca told me on a recent Las Vegas visit for the first preview performance of Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay: “He’s made more money in the four years since his death than he made during his lifetime. Since he died, he’s sold 50 million albums and is still the biggest-selling artist on iTunes.”
Look all over Las Vegas and you will find the Michael Jackson brand and his musical successes remarkably untarnished. His moneymaking machine goes from strength to strength despite the tragic, ugly medical addictions and paranoia revelations in the present wrongful-death lawsuit.
That’s all on top of past allegations of child molestation charges dating back to 1993, a 2005 criminal trial, bizarre behavior, drug and pharmaceutical abuses and the never-ending headline controversies as to who fathered his children.
Even today on the fourth anniversary of his death, new claims were made that British actor Mark Lester fathered Paris and Prince with Michael’s former nurse, Debbie Rowe. However, it’s long been rumored in Hollywood that Michael’s Beverly Hills medical confidante, dermatologist Arnold Klein, was the sperm donor for the two children.
Blanket was born to a surrogate mother who still remains anonymous after a massive monetary payoff. Little wonder that Paris was rushed to a hospital this month in a reported suicide attempt and has caused family concerns of her repeatedly cutting herself.
As the strangeness of Michael’s legacy continues to grow, so does his ability to earn multimillions. His life and musical talent will be celebrated Saturday when Cirque officially premieres “MJOne.” We’ll post our preview Thursday; meantime, Pamela Anderson, Spike Lee, Neil Patrick Harris, Berry Gordy Jr. and many more are scheduled to walk the red carpet.
It’s the second Cirque show paying tribute to Michael’s entertainment glory. “Michael Jackson — The Immortal World Tour” began with an October 2011 premiere and continued to Mandalay Bay Events Center for a month. It moved on to 50 North American cities before arriving in Europe and is now headed this fall to Australia and New Zealand. Currently, it’s in Asia, opening in Taiwan on Friday before Korea, with August dates in Beijing and Shanghai.
“Immortal” is headed toward a $500 million box office haul, and Pollstar reports that in its debut year, at $100 million it was the highest-grossing tour and in 2012 was the second-highest U.S. tour with $112.9 million. Add in record sales, merchandise and other M.J. paraphernalia, and in its first two years on the road racked up a whopping $400 million.
Experts predict that “Immortal” will run at least another two years and return to the U.S. for more dates while “MJOne” plays as a resident Las Vegas show with a minimum 10-year lifespan.
Michael wax figures are on display at Madame Tussauds worldwide. In London this morning, the museum unveiled three wax figures of The King of Pop onstage at Lyric Theater, which for five years hosted the stage show “Thriller Live.” At The Venetian Madame Tussauds, three statues are maintained, with at least one always on display.
Hotel and casino properties on the Strip, off Strip and Downtown still feature the Bally Technologies M.J. slot machines released in 2011, and they continue to be one of the company’s biggest hits. If you can’t afford the Cirque show tickets, you can always catch the tribute artist show at The Rio nightly or “Legends in Concert” at the Flamingo.
Thanks to his artistic genius — and not his character flaws and faults — Michael Jackson is alive and well. He might never truly rest in peace, but, despite one of the most controversial lives in music history, The King of Pop will go on making multimillions for many years to come.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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