The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES —
An expert who projected Michael Jackson could have earned more than $1 billion on his comeback concerts testified Tuesday that his analysis didn’t include a breakdown of the singer’s yearly earnings over his lifetime and projected a longer concert tour than the superstar had ever performed.
Arthur Erk, a certified public accountant who is an expert in musicians’ royalties, said his analysis didn’t take into consideration figures detailing Jackson’s spending over the years.
His projection that Jackson would have earned between $1.1 billion and $1.5 billion if he performed a 37-month, 260-show tour and crafted a Las Vegas show came under attack Tuesday by a lawyer for concert promoter AEG Live LLC. He said his figures were a conservative estimate of Jackson’s earning potential if he had lived.
AEG Live attorney Sabrina Strong attacked Erk’s projections, saying they were inconsistent with Jackson’s historical spending, earnings or figures of how many sold-out shows Jackson would have performed.
“It wasn’t a matter of history,” Erk said. “This was going to be a final extravaganza. He was going to do a blowout tour, he would have earned a lot of money.”
Erk is testifying for Jackson’s mother in her lawsuit against AEG Live, claiming the company is liable for her son’s death because it failed to properly investigate the doctor who administered a fatal overdose of an anesthetic propofol in June 2009. At the time of his death, Jackson was preparing for 50 comeback concerts in London called “This Is It,” but there was the possibility the singer would have embarked on a worldwide tour.
The accountant based his calculations on documents prepared by AEG, but on cross-examination conceded that the company never projected the singer would earn more than $1 billion after the “This Is It” shows opened. He said he didn’t have information regarding Jackson’s earnings over his lifetime.
Erk’s estimate contemplated Jackson receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandise, endorsement deals and royalties from a Las Vegas show based on his music and archival footage.
Strong showed Erk a chart that showed that Jackson’s three previous solo tours comprised 275 shows over a 10-year span. She challenged Erk’s contention that he was being conservative by projecting Jackson would have performed 260 shows over a three-year period.
Strong also attacked Erk’s calculation that Jackson would have spent $134 million between ages 50 and 65. She cited testimony from Jackson’s former business managers and accountants in depositions that Jackson was historically outspending his earnings by millions of dollars each year.
Jackson died an estimated $400 million in debt.
Strong also questioned Erk whether he should have taken into account Jackson’s reputation after his acquittal on child molestation charges and when he dangled his infant son Blanket off a hotel balcony in 2002. Erk said those didn’t matter in his projections.
Plaintiff’s attorney Brian Panish said Erk’s projections were based on AEG’s plans to do a worldwide tour, and the company had no qualms about spending millions of dollars to prepare for the “This Is It” shows.
He said he planned to show that some of AEG’s points brought out on cross-examination were not right.
“We’re not done yet,” Panish said.