Judge OK's Jackson merchandise deal

Katherine Jackson had raised objections

A judge has approved a deal that will bring Michael Jackson merchandise to store shelves.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff approved the deal during a court hearing Monday. Beckloff heard from attorneys for Jackson's mother, Katherine, the current administrators of Jackson's estate and a newly appointed attorney for the singer's three young children.

The merchandise agreement allows for items such as trading cards, clothing and digital goodies to be sold. The judge had delayed approval of the agreements after Katherine Jackson had raised objections to the contracts with concert promoter AEG Live and merchandiser Bravado.

Those objections were withdrawn, but the lawyers raised new objections to AEG's involvement in a proposed memorabilia tour, which is still awaiting approval. Beckloff scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Friday on whether the tour is the best deal for Jackson's estate.

Kathy Jorrie, an attorney for AEG, said the exhibition faces a tight deadline and its interest might wane if the tour isn't approved soon. She said the company was not interested in renegotiating the deal.

AEG wants the memorabilia tour to open at the same time as a movie using footage of Jackson's final rehearsals for a series of London concerts. The deal is expected to generate about $7 million for the estate, said Howard Weitzman, an attorney for the current administrators of the estate.

One of the concessions Katherine Jackson is apparently seeking is the authority to sign off on the deal. Beckloff said he was inclined to reject that argument.

"She doesn't own the property," Beckloff said. "There's no reason to make her a signatory to those agreements."

Burt Levitch, an attorney for Katherine Jackson, said there was more than money at stake: He said the singer's legacy is on the line and that there is concern Jackson's estate isn't receiving the best deal from AEG.

Beckloff said he was in a difficult position and was concerned that delays in approving the deal -- which was first proposed nearly two weeks ago -- are hurting the estate.

"I see the delay as a real problem for the estate," Beckloff said.
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