AEG dispute claims that 'This Is It' tour would have made Michael Jackson a billionaire

Concert promoter takes issue with singer's projected income during trial

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Concert promoter AEG Live has disputed claims that Michael Jackson could have been a billionaire if he had completed his ill-fated 'This Is It' live tour.

According to Billboard, jurors at the Los Angeles Supreme Court were told by accounting expert Arthur Erk that Jackson could have made an estimated $1.5 billion by going on to stage an extensive world tour. Jackson was scheduled to begin a series of comeback shows at London's O2 Arena before his death, but Erk said he had given a conservative estimate on his earning potential based on the singer performing 260 gigs over 37 months.

Erk – who was giving evidence in the trial in which the Jackson family are suing AEG Live for hiring Dr Conrad Murray [pictured right], the man who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson an overdose of a dangerous sedative called Propofol – also included revenue from merchandise deals, endorsements and a mooted stage show in Las Vegas based on his music in his estimates. "This was going to be a final extravaganza," he said. "He was going to do a blowout tour, he would have earned a lot of money."

However, AEG's attorney Sabrina Strong took issue with Erk's claims due to Jackson's history of cancelling shows and drug abuse. She said that the singer had not agreed to extend his tour beyond the shows in London, and said as his three previous tours had comprised 275 shows over a 10-year period, it was questionable whether he would have been able to perform 260 gigs in three years.

"What you're projecting is totally inconsistent with Michael Jackson's history, isn't it?" she asked, before going on to suggest that his earning potential may have been hindered by a wane in popularity due to his 2005 trial for child molestation and bizarre public stunts, such as the time in which he dangled one of his children over a hotel balcony in Berlin in 2002.

She also questioned Erk's claim that Jackson would have spent $134 million between the ages of 50 and 65, given that he died $400 million in debt and there was evidence from the singer's former business managers and accountants which suggested he was outspending his income by millions of dollars each year.

Earlier this month (July 16), the director of Michael Jackson's comeback shows in London, Kenny Ortega, claimed he was "frightened" after he saw the singer shivering during one of his final rehearsals for the 'This Is It' shows and described him as seeming lost and incoherent.

Last month, meanwhile, Prince Jackson - the late singer's son - told jurors during the trial against AEG that his father feared the concert promoter. Prince said that his father wanted more time to rehearse for his 'This Is It' shows at London's O2 in July 2009, and had several tense phone conversations with the promoter that often ended with the singer in tears.

The trial began on April 29 and is set to conclude at the end of this month (July).

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