Michael Jackson's Next Battle? His Money Woes

Pop star Michael Jackson was acquitted Monday on all 10 charges of child molestation, giving a child alcohol and conspiracy, but his troubles may be far from over — he owes an estimated $300 million to creditors. Alex Chadwick talks to entertainment and media specialist Porter Bibb about Jackson's financial future.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

What's next for Michael Jackson now that a jury declares him not guilty after a four-month trial on charges of child molestation and more? Here is his lawyer, Tom Mesereau, speaking on NBC's "Today" show.

(Soundbite of "Today")

Mr. TOM MESEREAU (Michael Jackson's Lawyer): There's going to be a period of recovery for him because physically, he deteriorated, he wasn't sleeping, he wasn't eating well and it was a terrible ordeal for him.

CHADWICK: Michael Jackson's physical and emotional recovery may be more easy than restoring the rest of his life. He remains a pop star, but one with a reported $270 million in debt. And as for career prospects, well, they're uncertain at least. Porter Bibb is an entertainment and media specialist with the New York investment firm Mediatech Capital Partners.

Porter Bibb, Michael Jackson is, in many ways, a brand--Wouldn't you say?--in pop culture, but how is that brand?

Mr. PORTER BIBB (Mediatech Capital Partners): Well, he may be the biggest brand in the music business in the last 25 years. And unhappily, the brand is in a state of sad erosion right now and has been even long before the recent trial. His best chance, as his lawyer, Tom Mesereau suggests, is to lie low and begin to think about his future. He's going to be 47. He's not the King of Pop that he was 10 or 15 years ago. And his popularity has clearly diminished in the United States as both a brand and as a personality. But he is hugely popular still in the rest of the world, in Asia particularly and in many parts of Europe. And it's not inconceivable that Michael may set up his own recording company and maybe even relocate to another part of the world.

CHADWICK: He owns half of this music library which is valued at $1 billion. Why not just sell, say, half of that? He could clear out his debt and everything would be fine.

Mr. BIBB: That is true; he could do that. He has stated many times in the past, because he's not had any paucity of offers. There are numerous private equity firms as well as others who would knock the doors down to buy into that Holy Grail of music publishing, and he's resisted any offers.

The $270 million worth of debt that you mentioned, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. That is a loan that he had with Bank of America, which Bank of America recently sold to a firm called Fortress Capital. It is secured by his physical assets, his interest in the music publishing entity that he shares with Sony, and in Neverland, his ranch. Fortress basically controls Michael's financial destiny right now, and if they press him to pay off that loan, he would be forced to sell either the ranch or part of his music publishing.

CHADWICK: Well, OK. The Michael Jackson brand, at this point, as a media analyst, is this a plus or a minus, a buy or a sell?

Mr. BIBB: I don't think it's a buy, unless you knew what the business model and the business plan was for Michael going forward.

CHADWICK: He's got one, but we don't know what it is.

Mr. BIBB: The apocryphal statement that's still ringing in everybody's ears this morning is that Michael has agreed he's not going to sleep with young boys anymore. And I think that's probably the worst kind of brand equity he could begin building.

CHADWICK: Entertainment and media analyst Porter Bibb in New York.

Thanks, Porter.

Mr. BIBB: It's a pleasure.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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