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Michael Jackson auction canceled, exhibit continues

A huge auction of Michael Jackson memorabilia scheduled for next week was canceled yesterday and auctioneers agreed to return all the items to the singer.

Auctioneer Darren Julien told Reuters the cancellation of the planned April 22-25 sale was the result of an agreement with Jackson, who had filed a lawsuit in March demanding the return of certain items.

A public exhibit of the 1,400 lots which opened yesterday in Beverly Hills will continue until April 25.

"The auction isn't going to take place. We wanted to reach an agreement (with Jackson) and we have reached one today that is mutually acceptable and beneficial," Julien said.

Julien said all the items -- including a single crystal white glove worn in the singer's "Billie Jean" performances and the gates to his Neverland Ranch in California -- would be returned to Jackson when the exhibit closes.

Jackson's spokesman, Tohme R. Tohme, said in a joint statement with Julien the two groups "are pleased" with the agreement and that it "allows Michael Jackson to retain ownership of the Collection of Michael Jackson."

Julien signed agreements with Tohme and removed hundreds of items from Jackson's shuttered and sold Neverland Ranch for the sale, which was expected to fetch about US$10 million.

It would have been the largest authorized auction of items associated with the self-styled King of Pop, who has been a virtual recluse since his 2005 acquittal on charges of molesting a young boy at Neverland.

But on March 4, Tohme and Jackson's production company filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles seeking the return of unspecified items. Although a Los Angeles judge ruled earlier this month the auction could proceed, the two sides continued talks to settle the dispute.


Julien said earlier this month he had spent some US$2 million preparing the sale and the exhibit.

He did not say how much Jackson had agreed to pay under Tuesday's settlement but added; "We are very happy. We are happy because he is happy."

Tuesday's statement suggested the items would find a permanent public home in the future but gave no details.

"There was so much interest from so many of Jackson's fans that instead of putting the items in the hands of private collectors, Dr. Tohme and Julien's Auction House have made arrangements that will allow the collection to be shared with and enjoyed by Jackson's fans for many years to come," the statement said.

The 30,000 square-foot (2,787 sq metre) exhibit includes Jackson's red, gilded throne, his Rolls-Royce stretch limo, sequined costumes, portraits of Jackson, pictures of Peter Pan, and toys from the Neverland ranch.

Abby Marie, a Jackson fan visiting on Tuesday, told Reuters earlier it would be a pity to see the items sold off to separate bidders. "I hope one person buys it all and puts it in a museum," she said.

Jackson adopted a low-profile after his 2005 molestation trial, but in March he announced a run of 50 comeback concerts in London starting in July that sold out within hours.


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