Dateline: Los Angeles
06 July 2009
This week I have been in Los Angeles as part of the CNN team covering of the death of Michael Jackson. It has been a startling insight into the world of celebrity in life and death; a world where fact is often stranger than fiction. By Richard Quest, CNN's London corespondent
This week I have been in Los Angeles as part of the CNN team covering of the death of Michael Jackson. It has been a startling insight into the world of celebrity in life and death; a world where fact is often stranger than fiction. There have been moments when I really thought "you couldn't write this as a story and be believed."
It has also given me an insight into just how popular Michael Jackson was, and now his estate.
Guessing how much Michael Jackson was worth is just that - a guess - because of the complexity of his financial affairs. Settling the estate will be an enormous task for his two executors, named as his lawyer and a record company executive.
The jewel in the crown is certainly the Sony/ATV catalogue, which includes the rights of up to 500,000 songs. It was bought in 1985 for $47.5 million. Among its riches are the Lennon and McCartney songs written for The Beatles. The catalogue also includes tracks from artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and even Elvis Presley. Even though Jackson sold half his interest to pay off debts some years ago, his 50 percent share will still bring in hundreds of millions of dollars. But no-one knows really just how much it is worth; that is until it is put up for sale.
Then there are his own songs which are owned by his company, Mijac. Within a week of his death Jackson was once again breaking records. He dominated the charts, having nine out of the 10 albums on the Billboard including his compilation of number one hits, Essential and of course Thriller. He was also a master of the online download world - an industry that wasn't invented when he first released Thriller in 1983. He now holds the record of being the first artist to reach one million downloads on iTunes in a week. In fact he has broken so many records that may well be a record in itself.
All of this activity will pour money into the Michael Jackson estate, which we now know will ultimately be transferred into a trust for his family and charities.