Katherine Jackson, the mother of late pop superstar Michael Jackson, lost her bid in an L.A. courtroom on Monday to be named special administrator of her son’s estate. The judge instead opted to leave the two lawyers named as co-executors in Michael’s will, John Branca and John McClain, in charge until at least Aug. 3.
No members of Michael’s family were present in the courtroom this morning as Judge Mitchell Beckloff heard arguments from both sides.
Lawyers for Katherine argued that Mr. Branca, who MJ dismissed as his attorney several years ago, has a conflict of interest that will prohibit him from properly executing the will. “Mrs. Jackson is more concerned than ever that the co-executors are proper to serve,” they told the court.
“There are a lot of open questions surrounding Michael Jackson’s death,” explained Katherine’s attorney. “Mr. Branca was removed in 2006 as a trustee and Katherine was added, so we have concerns about turning over the keys to the kingdom.” They added that Branca only came back into Michael’s employment three weeks before his passing.
Her legal eagles also went on the attack against Mr. McClain, who they claim is unfit to be executor because of a disability.
“Don’t let them be solely in charge,” said her attorney. “There could be irreparable damage done in as little as four weeks to the trust.”
The lawyer for McClain and Branca countered that “Mr, McClain has been a friend of the family for 40 years, since Michael was 10. And Mr. Branca has been his lawyer since he was 21. That’s 30 yrs. It’s not like these people are unknown to [Katherine]. She’s well aware of who they are.”
The judge answered, “I’m inclined to let things stand and leave the co-executors in place until Aug. 3. I just see a bare assertion of conflict of interest, but I don’t see any.”
It was announced as part of the hearing that the total value of Michael’s estate could be worth as much as $500 million.
Branca and McClain were given a $1 million bond to administer between now and Aug. 3. That money is to be used for everything from paying employees to reimbursement for their legal fees.
They also asked to be granted immediate permission to negotiate with AEG, the company behind Michael’s planned 50-show extravaganza in London. “The estate is liable for tens of millions of dollars to AEG,” they explained. “We need to reduce the liability and negotiate. We need the power to deal with merchandising, pay-per-view TV, etc.”
On this topic, the judge conceded that Katherine should likely be involved. “I have no issue with you all negotiating that on behalf of the estate, subject to court approval,” he declared. “She can have input on that.”
While the judge requested that Branca and McClain keep Katherine in the loop on all decisions, he said that — at least through Aug. 3 — they “are at the helm of this ship, but Mrs. Jackson has a right to disagree. I have final power to approve any deals.”
In a press conference after the hearing, the co-executors’ lawyer said, “It is our obligation to do whatever we can to carry out Michael Jackson’s wishes.”
Meanwhile, Katherine’s attorney cautiously stated, “We will not contest the will… We will contest anything not done in good faith.”');
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