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Concert promoter expects to erase Jackson's debts

THE concert promoter for Michael Jackson's canceled London shows said yesterday that audio and video tapes made before the King of Pop's death could generate hundreds of millions of dollars and erase debts on the singer's estate.

Randy Phillips, chief executive of AEG Live, said his company has recorded enough of Jackson's songs to release two albums and video to make a movie, DVD, or both from Jackson's recent rehearsals for concerts planned for London's 02 arena.

A lot is at stake for AEG and Jackson's family, because Phillips said the King of Pop's death would likely leave his estate liable for more than US$25 million AEG spent on production costs and the singer's expenses ahead of the London shows.

"If we all do our jobs right, we could probably raise hundreds of millions of dollars just on the stuff we have worldwide," Phillips said.

"And then the estate could eradicate its debt and move forward with the restructuring of the Sony/ATV deal, and all these other things that they're dealing with," he said.

Jackson, 50, whose 1982 hit "Thriller" is the best-selling album of all time, died suddenly last week of cardiac arrest ahead of what had been promoted as his comeback concerts for a once high-flying career that in recent years has flagged.

While Jackson owned half of music publishing firm Sony/ATV and other assets worth up to US$1 billion, Jackson also was said to be US$500 million in debt when he died.

Phillips said he is also planning a star-studded tribute at the 02 arena that will help recoup costs, and that AEG had insurance that could cover up to US$17.5 million in losses.

In recent days, news reports have speculated prescription drugs may have caused Jackson's cardiac arrest, although an official cause of death has yet been determined pending results of toxicology tests that will take weeks. Phillips said insurance would likely cover accidental death from drugs.

Jerry Kroll, an insurance industry attorney not tied to the case, said insurers would scrutinize a physical exam given to Jackson, which AEG said he passed. "It's far from clear if this claim is going to get paid," Kroll said.

AEG has offered to refund the 750,000 people who snapped up tickets to the London shows, but if fans want to keep them as a valuable memento they get no refund. Phillips said nearly half might hold on to their tickets.


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