This is a reminder to myself that the world has not come to an end. Not even close.
It was easy to plunge into despair after the executors of Michael Jackson’s estate sold Michael’s half of the Sony/ATV catalog. As Steve Dennis tweeted:
If u half-know #MJ backstory re Sony & how hard he fought
to prevent this very outcome, you’ll feel the nauseating
travesty re this sell-out
(There’s a recap of the history below, if you are unfamiliar with it.)
Now I am just a blogger, and new to the fan family. I claim no special knowledge and no inside sources. But I am horrified by the evidence that suggests his estate was taken over by people who actively worked to sabotage Michael’s life and finances (see links below). The fact that the estate is selling Neverland, has sold this catalog and has knowingly faked his voice on an album appears to indicate a gross lack of integrity and continued attempts to sabotage Michael’s legacy and family.
Additionally, the attacks against Michael’s life and assets are part of a centuries-old pattern of attacks against Black individuals and communities (see last week’s blog).
It is easy to feel powerless in the face of such overwhelming theft.
But I know this: Michael was incredibly resilient. His family and the Black community have survived repeated, utterly devastating attacks.
And I know this: even when we feel powerless, we are actually very powerful.
So yes, let’s mourn the loss, and really feel the grief (stuffing it just makes us numb). But then let’s pick ourselves up and see what creative power we can find in the ashes. Let’s support the Jackson family and his children, both in their responses to this travesty, and their other creative endeavors.
Michael picked himself up over and over again. We can too.
By Keely Meagan
Snapshot of Sony/ATV Catalog History
Please note: The complexity of this story is immense. We may never understand the full history, but it is important to try. It is also important to keep an open mind. His children and mother have not spoken out against the sale (though they may be silenced by the way the trust is designed and run…his siblings, who do not benefit from the trust, have been unusually vocal in their reaction).
About Michael, Music Publishing and the Estate:
- Music publishing is where the big money is in the music industry.
- After Thriller, Michael purchased the publishing rights to the ATV catalog (including songs from the Beatles and many other artists).
- He later split this 50-50 with Sony in exchange for half of Sony’s vast catalog.
- These catalogs generated hundreds of millions of dollars for him (and Sony), giving Michael financial power and greater artistic freedom.
- That Michael (a Black man!) possessed these catalogs fueled resentment in high places, including inside Sony, which kept pressuring him to sell it all back to them.
- He was determined to hold on to it, and swore he would never sell it. According to his family, he began to fear that Sony would kill him for it.
- After Michael was overdosed by his doctor, brother Jermaine revealed in his book that all the documentation of Sony dirty-dealings had disappeared from his home on the day Michael died.
- A suspicious old will and trust gave control of Michael’s estate to John McClain and John Branca, lawyers whom he’d fired years earlier, after discovering they had financial ties to Sony and had encouraged the raid on Neverland.
- After Branca and McClain sold the catalog, Michael’s siblings sent a searing letter to the estate, calling for their resignations.
I just read the “trust” that controls how Michael’s estate is handled, and it raised the hair on the back of my neck. It seems to give Branca and McClain total control of Michael’s assets and disbursements to his children and mother for decades to come. It also prevents his family and children from taking control of the estate, because they are only able to appoint corporate trustees to trustee position. If the children attempt to contest the trust in court, they will be treated as “predeceased” and lose all income from their father’s estate. Given what appears to be the hostile takeover of the estate, this is sad news indeed.