Settlement Between Michael Jackson's Ex-Manager, Estate Falls Apart

The Michael Jackson Estate refused to pay Tohme Tohme his settlement money unless he agreed to a non-disparagement clause.
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Tohme Tohme (left), Michael Jackson

A seven-year-old lawsuit between Michael Jackson's estate and his former manager Tohme Tohme appears to be back on with a Los Angeles Superior Court judge refusing to enforce an oral settlement agreement.

Tohme was one of the last managers for Jackson before the superstar died in 2009. He sued the estate, claiming he was owed a 15 percent commission on money Jackson made during the last year of his life, a cut of This Is It revenues and a finder's fee for a loan that stopped Neverland Ranch from going into foreclosure.

In May, a trial began — one that explored Jackson's final days and the estate's contention that Tohme got Jackson to sign an unconscionable agreement and stole money from the performer.

Then five days into trial, the parties settled in open court. Or so it appeared, with the parties sending The Hollywood Reporter a joint statement about the "amicable" resolution.

But after the lawyers read the material terms of the settlement to the judge (and then had the transcripts sealed), according to court documents, the Michael Jackson Estate refused to pay Tohme his settlement money unless he agreed to a non-disparagement clause and an agreement to not sue again.

So without payment, Tohme asked the judge to enforce the terms of the settlement.

"The settlement terms did not include a non-disparagement clause or an agreement not to sue," writes Mark A. Young in his ruling. "However, the law requires the settling parties’ presence in order for an oral agreement to be enforceable under §664.6. Counsel, and not the parties themselves, were present when the terms of the settlement agreement were stated before the court."

The judge adds that Tohme can file a new lawsuit aiming to enforce the settlement agreement. But Young won't quickly do as Tohme asks. In the meantime, the ex-manager's 2012 suit seeking about $20 million remains active. And Tohme is apparently free to disparage his ex-client.