Others have tried to revive the onetime pop star’s performing career. Tom Barrack is convinced he’s the ‘caretaker’ to do it.
Tom Barrack, a Westside financier who made billions buying and selling distressed properties, flew to Las Vegas in March 2008 to check out a troubled asset. But his target was not a struggling hotel chair or failed bank.
It was Michael Jackson. The world’s bestselling male pop artist was hunkered down with his three children in a dumpy housing compound in an older section of town. At 49, he was awash in nearly $400 million of debt and so frail that he greeted visitors in a wheelchair. The rich international friends who offered Jackson refuge after his 2005 acquittal on molestation charges had fallen away. His Santa Barbara ranch, Neverland, was about to be sold at public auction.
In Jackson, Barrack saw the sort of undervalued asset his private equity firm, Colony Capital, had succeeded with in the past. He wrote a check to save the ranch and placed a call to a friend, the conservative business magnate Philip Anschutz, whose holdings include the concert production firm AEG Live.
Fifteen months later, Jackson is living in a Bel-Air mansion and rehearsing for a series of 50 sold-out shows in London’s O2 Arena. The intervention of two billionaires with more experience in the board room than the recording studio seems on course to accomplish what a parade of others over the last dozen years could not: getting Jackson back on stage.
His backers envision the shows at AEG’s O2 as an audition for a career rebirth that could ultimately encompass a three-year world tour, a new album, movies, a Graceland-like museum, musical revues in Las Vegas and Macau, and even a “Thriller” casino. Such a rebound could wipe out Jackson’s massive debt.
“You are talking about a guy who could make $500 million a year if he puts his mind to it,” Barrack said recently. “There are very few individual artists who are multibillion-dollar businesses. And he is one.”
Others have tried to resurrect Jackson’s career, but previous attempts have failed, associates say, because…
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