March 4, 2013


"Smoking Gun" Email Emerges in Case Against Michael Jackson's Concert Promoter

Dave M. Benett
Dave M. Benett

Unsealed documents in the case against AEG Live—the promoter behind Michael Jackson's This Is It tour—have complicated the story of his tragic death even further. According to an email that Jackson family lawyers call a "smoking gun," AEG Live pressured Dr. Conrad Murray to approve the singer fit to rehearse despite his ailing physical condition prior to his death.

"We want to remind [Dr. Murray] that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary," an AEG Live co-CEO allegedly wrote 11 days before Jackson's death. "We want to remind him what is expected of him." Although CNN doesn't report who the email was addressed to, they do point out Murray was receiving $150,000 a month to get MJ ready for rehearsals. 

Lawyers for the prosecution are arguing this indicates the concert promoter pressured Dr. Murray—who is currently in prison on an involuntary manslaughter charge—into okaying MJ's health despite obvious warning signs.

Concert director Kenny Ortega voiced his concerns over MJ's health to the president of AEG Live one week before the pop legend died. "It is like there are two people there. One (deep inside) trying to hold on to what he was and still can be and not wanting us to quit him, the other in this weakened and troubled state," Ortega wrote in an email. "I believe we need professional guidance in this matter."

In his response to Ortega's email, the AEG Live president countered, "This doctor is extremely successful (we check everyone out) and does not need this gig so he is totally unbiased and ethical."

Although the case is just beginning, it doesn't look good for the concert promoting giant. A Los Angeles County Superior Court already agreed with the Jackson family that there is evidence AEG Live failed to conduct "a sufficient background check of Dr. Murray, which would have established that Murray was deeply in debt." We now know that Murray was in debt for almost $800,000 the day Jackson died, which is in conflict with AEG's claim that he didn't "need this gig."

The concert promoter's other primary defense is that it is not liable because Murray was not technically an employee of AEG Live.

Regardless of this lawsuit's outcome, we'd like to point out the only person who comes out of this looking responsible is the director of High School Musical.