Michael Jackson Sets Record With 50-Date London Run
Embattled King of Pop could gross $400 million on potential world tour
Michael Jackson smashed tour-biz records in early March, selling out 50 concerts at London’s O2 Arena. Tickets for the six-month string of shows, which kick off July 8, sold at an unprecedented 657 seats per minute. But is Jackson, 50, in shape to pull off the grind? “Michael had to submit to a five-hour physical by an independent, third-party physician picked by the insurance carrier,” says Randy Phillips, CEO of AEG Live, which is promoting the shows.
Jackson has kept a low profile since he was acquitted in 2005 of child-molestation charges. He’s turned down repeated offers to perform – leading some longtime Jackson observers to wonder if the new shows will actually happen. “I hope this is something that’s real – otherwise, it’s just added to a list of things that haven’t happened with him,” says Ron Weisner, a Thriller-era Jackson manager.
Jackson may have no choice but to do the concerts. Huge expenses, including attorney’s fees for the molestation trial and the exorbitant costs of maintaining his Neverland Ranch, have led to millions of dollars of debt. Payroll for the ranch totalled $250,000 a month at one point, forcing the singer to take out tens of millions of dollars in loans. He avoided default last year when real estate investment firm Colony Capital bought out the loan and hired a consultant, Dr Tohme Tohme, as the latest in a long line of Jackson managers. Tohme and Phillips say Jackson’s stake in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which owns the Beatles catalogue and earns close to $500 million a year, helps keep the performer afloat financially, although Jackson has borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars against that investment.
The London shows could gross as much as $100 million, estimates Phillips – and if Jackson decides to tour, it could total as much as $400 million. “No matter what people’s doubts will be, they’re overwhelmed completely by how huge this thing was when it was kicking on all cylinders,” says Andy Cirzan, vice president of concerts for Chicago’s Jam Productions. “When superstar acts wait, the demand just keeps cranking.”