article

09.13.09

Jackson Family Civil War

In the Jackson clan, it’s now every sibling for him or herself in a quest to cash in on Michael’s legacy. Diane Dimond on a family at war with itself—catching the King of Pop’s three kids in the middle.

In the Jackson clan, it’s now every sibling for him or herself in a quest to cash in on Michael’s legacy, with the King of Pop’s three kids in the middle. Diane Dimond has the details, including:

  • Jackson matriarch Katherine Jackson, after arguing with Michael's siblings about Prince, Paris, and Blanket, has decided to raise them completely by herself and provide home schooling.
  • Open warfare over money has broken out among the Jackson siblings.
  • La Toya quietly cut a deal for her own Barbara Walters interview, scuttling a plan for a family-wide ABC special.
  • Janet Jackson has secretly agreed to write a book, and family members worry about what she will divulge.
  • Father Joe Jackson demanded a $1 million bus, with $50,000 in the glove compartment, to make a “Jackson 8” tour materialize.
  • Jermaine Jackson’s much-maligned efforts to organize a tribute concert for his brother have others in the family fearing legal troubles.

The drumbeat of dysfunction has never been louder inside America’s most-talked-about family. The Jackson clan is at war with itself, according to five sources with longstanding personal or business ties with the family. And caught in the middle are his three children, trapped within the walls of the family compound, Hayvenhurst, in Encino, California, where more than a dozen members of the fractured family somehow co-exist. (The population could increase by one more since La Toya Jackson has reportedly just lost her Las Vegas condo to foreclosure.) Now that the decision has been made that that they will be home schooled—Prince, Paris, and Blanket did not show up as expected for class at the Buckley School this past week; tutors have been hired, one source inside the compound told me, “because that’s what they’re used to”—there will be little escape for Michael’s children.  

“When I got to Vegas, Joe Jackson met with me and said, ‘Get me a Prevost (a million-dollar tour bus), put $50,000 in cash in the glove box, and I’ll make sure the Jackson 8 come together.’ ”

Prince, Paris, and Blanket are likely getting earfuls of their relatives' bickering. Despite ubiquitous pronouncements from various family members, all delivered in that trademark wispy Jackson voice, that all is well, these sources report it is not.  

The main and constant argument at the compound revolves around what it has always been about with Michael’s relatives: his money. They’ve argued about Michael’s estate and the executors he named, how to bury him in the most lucrative spot possible, how much to spend on his final funeral service (the tab: a reported $950,000), and how to professionally capitalize on their brother’s passing. According to these sources, including one who was a direct eyewitness to many of these battles, there was even an argument about who would ride in which limo to the King of Pop’s memorial services.

Gerald Posner: Did Jackson Drug Himself?For the past quarter-century, most of the Jacksons depended on Brother Michael like an ATM.  They needed, he gave. Michael would send his mother Katherine a monthly check, according to three sources with direct knowledge of this, and she would dole it out to those in the family most in need: One brother needed a car, another need help to pay the rent, etc. Marlon has had particularly tough economic troubles of late, according to a longtime family friend. None of the five brothers—save for Tito, who still books music gigs at clubs and casinos—has had any sort of meaningful entertainment employment since 1984. That’s when Michael gave in to his mother’s plea for one last family concert series so the brothers could become solvent once again. Michael called it the Victory tour and at its conclusion he vowed to business and personal associates alike that he’d never again tour with his brothers. He’d given enough.  

So his death has naturally intensified the money squabbles: How to divide it, how to make more of it, how to make any potential payday benefit everyone in the family, even though not everyone earns his or her way. This has been Katherine’s mantra. She continues to insist that there must be a way for the siblings, as a family unit, to command one last mega payday … or two or three. But the overriding problem is that none of them really like each other, say several people who’ve had dealings with them in the entertainment industry as well as several sources familiar with the family’s inner workings, and they definitely don’t trust each other. Their discord has boiled over in very ugly ways.  

ABC was in discussions with all the Jacksons about a prime-time family special in the wake of Michael’s death.  ABC has been known to offer major money for such exclusive interviews so the clan was keenly interested. But, an inside source tells me, La Toya went behind everyone’s back and struck her own ABC deal with 20/20’s Barbara Walters, which aired on Friday. The prime-time possibility evaporated, and within the family La Toya was seen as a traitor. Some family members have also become suspicious that La Toya took valuable personal possessions from the rented house that Michael died in, intending to sell them. 

There was an offer for a 10-concert family tour worth $13 million, but the Jacksons couldn’t agree on whether to take the deal from the New Jersey-based AllGood Entertainment.  AllGood CEO Patrick Allocco said he worked hard to make the concert series, tentatively billed as the “Jackson 8 Tour,” featuring all the remaining Jackson siblings a reality. He says he spent hours drawing up proposals, getting investors, and talking to family business contacts. At the conclusion of a sitdown meeting with Katherine Jackson at the Benihana Restaurant in Beverly Hills, he says he was requested to hand over a $10,000 cash payment to a family go-between. Allocco provided The Daily Beast a copy of the receipt for that payment. He also got a meeting with the family patriarch, Joe Jackson.  

“When I got to Vegas, Joe Jackson met with me and said, ‘Get me a Prevost (a million-dollar tour bus), put $50,000 in cash in the glove box, and I’ll make sure the Jackson 8 come together.’ ” This effort is confirmed by others in the meeting. “I was right there,” Terry Harvey, a music promoter for Tito Jackson, told The Daily Beast. “I absolutely heard it.” Asked why Joe Jackson would get involved, Harvey responded: “Because they are a dysfunctional family if you want to know the truth. They all have their own agendas.”

Aware of the elder Jackson’s reputation of demanding upfront money and failing to follow through on promises, Allocco says, and Terry Harvey confirms, that they took a different tack. They agreed to put $1 million in an escrow account for the eight siblings to be released as good-faith money after the contracts were signed. Allocco says he was told that the Jackson siblings were bickering over the division of the $13 million, and he ultimately never heard back from them, even after imploring Katherine for an answer.  

Janet, inarguably the most successful surviving Jackson, is all too aware of her family’s propensity for indecision.  So she has gone back to her solo career. After a mourning period, she returned to finish the movie Why Did I Get Married Too? with director Tyler Perry. She granted an exclusive interview to Harper’s Bazaar magazine, and planned last night’s blockbuster homage to Michael for the MTV Music Awards, training up to 15 hours a day, according to those at the cable channel. And perhaps most important, she’s writing a book. A family insider tells me Janet informed her siblings recently the book will be finished by the end of the year and she’s already got an (unnamed) publisher. Other family members are said by this same source to be extremely uneasy about what secrets Janet might spill.  

But at the moment no one is higher on the familial contempt heap than brother Jermaine. The family is seething over his three very public and botched attempts to stage a Tribute Concert for Michael at a beautiful castle in Vienna.  

The ambitious event was originally scheduled to commemorate what would have been Jackson’s 51st birthday on August 29.  Jermaine’s Tribute Concert Web page announced that major stars like Whitney Houston and Madonna would perform Michael’s greatest hits, along with an appearance by none other than President Barack Obama. Tickets flew. However, the media quickly discovered it was a ruse. None of the stars had agreed to attend and the White House flatly denied it was ever even under consideration. 

Jermaine was forced to re-schedule the event to September 9, and he promised to sing a duet with Shawn King, the singer-wife of TV personality Larry King. She ultimately dropped out and the concert was re-scheduled for a third time to September 26. The event’s Web page then boasted acts like Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole, Akon, and Chris Brown. There were rumors that Stevie Wonder would appear too and more tickets sold.  Again, the media found most of the announced acts were not confirmed. Last Friday, the concert was postponed yet again, until sometime next June in London,with Jermaine saying he needed more time to assure the attendance of blockbuster acts.        

The Tribute Concert disaster is reminiscent of the trouble the family had in 1994 with Smith-Hemion, an Emmy Award-winning production company Jermaine brought on board to produce The Jackson Family Honors.  It was a low-rated fiasco with Smith-Hemion ultimately filing a fraud and breach of contract suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, naming all 10 members of the Jackson family, including Michael. The suit claimed that Jermaine, as executive producer, refused to pay crew costs and allowed massive room-service bills for his family. A jury awarded the company $2.6 million but the judge declared a mistrial and the case was apparently dropped.

Today, the Jacksons worry that Jermaine’s latest exploit could bring more legal troubles. As one member of the family said, according to a person who heard the comment, “Whenever he (Jermaine) does something like this, everybody gets sued.” 

Part of Jermaine’s plan for the Vienna concert was to project an image of his dead brother on a big screen so he could sing a duet with him, mimicking how Natalie Cole sang “Unforgettable” with her beloved father, Nat King Cole. A source inside Hayvenhurst says the angry family suspected Jermaine was planning to use a valuable videotape which had mysteriously disappeared from Michael’s tape vault after his death. The tape was of Michael singing the song, “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming.” During the Victory tour, it was a popular duet for the brothers, but Michael steadfastly refused to make a full-blown music video of it with Jermaine. In death, some family members believe Jermaine was planning to get—what he couldn’t get in life—a very public reprise of the duet.   

But the ultimate and final act of disloyalty came, according to a family source, when Jermaine insisted his mother go public to help him fix the damage he’d done. The siblings had let it be known through various media leaks that they were angry that they were not invited to participate in the Tribute Concert. Last Thursday Jermaine replaced his own large headshot at the top left of his Web site with a video of his mother.  

Sitting in what appeared to be a room at her Encino home, a weary looking Katherine Jackson looked into the camera and thanked everyone for remembering Michael and for helping make the Tribute Concert a reality. “I’ll see you on September 29th,” she said, unaware or forgetting the concert date was set for September 26.  The video, meant to portray family unity, was quickly removed the next day when word came that the concert was postponed until next year.  

Repeated attempts to contact the infamously hard-to-reach Jacksons were unsuccessful.  

As for Michael’s children, they have been directly involved in one major battle whether they were aware of it or not. Right after their father’s death, the family decided the oldest sibling, Rebbie, and her husband Nate would take over the day-to-day duty of raising the children, a nod to the ailing, 79-year-old Katherine. After several blowout arguments about how the children should be handled, I’m told by an insider, Katherine has now announced to the rest of the family that she will raise the children herself… period.

Investigative journalist and syndicated columnist Diane Dimond has covered the Michael Jackson story since 1993 when she first broke the news that the King of Pop was under investigation for child molestation. She is author of the book, Be Careful Who You Love—Inside the Michael Jackson Case. She lives in New York with her husband, broadcast journalist Michael Schoen.