Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coroner completes Jackson autopsy, film deal set

LOS ANGELES: Coroners have completed the autopsy report on the body of pop star Michael Jackson, but details remained under wraps on Monday as police probe the cause of the singer’s death and his prescription drug use.

A Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said detectives requested the autopsy, which includes toxicology tests, remain sealed until their investigation was finished. He could not say when it would be completed and declined to offer more details.

Some media outlets reported that the “Thriller” singer’s body has now been buried at the Forest Lawn cemetery in Los Angeles, but that could not immediately be confirmed through a family spokesman. A cemetery spokesman declined to comment.

Police are looking into why the 50-year-old singer died suddenly of cardiac arrest on June 25. Numerous media reports have said officials are focused on Jackson’s use of a powerful anesthetic called propofol to sleep. Police and federal agents have raided several offices of Jackson’s doctors as part of their probe.

Meanwhile, the judge overseeing the singer’s will said he had approved several business deals, including a $60 million agreement with Columbia Pictures to make a movie from video of the King of Pop’s rehearsals for a series of concerts that had been set to take place in London this past July.

Those shows were dubbed “This Is It” by Jackson, and the movie will be similarly titled. Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp’s Sony Pictures Entertainment, said the film, due to be in theaters on Oct. 30, will have performances and behind-the-scenes video of Jackson preparing for the concerts. Some of it will be shown in movie theaters in 3-D.

The judge also agreed to the re-issuance of the singer’s autobiography, “Moonwalk,” currently planned for October.

Lawyers spent much of Monday in court wrangling over merchandising deals still being planned and a traveling exhibition of Jackson memorabilia that concert promoter AEG Live, which had backed the London concerts, wants to mount.

Attorneys for Jackson’s mother, Katherine, said they had concerns about the involvement of AEG in deals struck with the executors of the pop star’s estate.

Judge Mitchell Beckloff said he could not approve the deals for the traveling exhibition and merchandising rights until he appoints an attorney to represent the interests of Jackson’s three minor children, who along with Katherine Jackson are beneficiaries of the estate.

As a result, he put off his decision on whether to approve the two deals until Aug. 17.

An attorney for AEG Live, which spent as much as $30 million preparing for the comeback concerts, had argued that to help recoup its investment it needed to move quickly to take advantage of the resurgence in the singer’s popularity.

Several of the “Thriller” singer’s albums, for instance, have returned to the top of the music charts in recent weeks, whereas before his death his CD sales had languished.

“The longer we wait, the more time passes, frankly the less interest there will be on the part of the public to come see the exhibit,” said Kathy Jorrie, an attorney for AEG Live.

Jackson’s “Number Ones” CD, originally released in 1993, is the second-best selling album of 2009 in the United States, with sales this year of 1.4 million copies, according to tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan. Only Taylor Swift’s 2008 release “Fearless,” with 1.5 million copies sold so far this year, stands in the way.

Jackson was said to be as much as $500 million in debt when he died, but the value of his estate was reported to be as high as $1 billion given his part ownership in a music catalog and his control of his own songs.

Jorrie told the judge that attorneys for his mother have demanded AEG Live give the estate its rehearsal video, something that AEG is not willing to do. AEG is owned by reclusive Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz.

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