Sources: Hollywood Reporter | All Things Michael
The legal conflict between Michael Jackson‘s estate and his former manager Tohme Tohme will return to court following a judge’s decision to partially end a two-year stay on the case.
The estate, now run by entertainment lawyer John Branca and longtime music executive John McClain, and Tohme filed dueling lawsuits against each other in 2012. The cases dispute whether Tohme’s efforts in the final few years of Jackson’s life were to launch a comeback for the troubled star or enrich himself at the King of Pop’s expense.
Tohme claims in his complaint that he became the late singer’s manager in mid-2008, following his alleged intervention in a dispute Jackson found himself in with a sheikh of Bahrain. He claims that in the time before the singer’s death in June 2009, he performed services for Jackson including overseeing his deal for the proposed “This Is It” tour and securing a loan to prevent foreclosure on his Neverland Ranch home. He says he’s entitled to a 15% commission on Jackson’s revenue during that time plus a finder’s fee for the Neverland deal.
The estate’s attorneys tell a different story. They claim Tohme manipulated Jackson into agreements that gave him “unfair financial compensation” and that Jackson fired him in March 2009.
But weeks after the complaints were filed, the estate’s attorneys filed a motion to stay — put on hold — the entire case. They contended that the California Labor Commission first had to rule on whether Tohme’s work violated the Talent Agencies Act, a controversial law that says only licensed talent agents can secure employment for clients.
The stay was granted in its entirety, and it’s been in place until a couple weeks ago. The Labor Commission heard the case nearly a year ago but still hasn’t made a ruling. Tohme’s attorneys filed to lift the entire stay, arguing the “extraordinary delay” warranted reviving the case. Alternatively, they requested at least the Neverland dispute reenter the court because securing a real estate investment isn’t covered by the TAA. In hearings over the past two weeks, Los Angeles Superior Court judge Mitchell L. Beckloff agreed to lift the stay on only the issue of Neverland. The rest of the case awaits the Commission’s decision.
“We’re very happy the court ruled that Dr. Tohme’s claim based on his obtaining the financing to save Neverland can go forward,” Tohme’s attorney James Curry tells The Hollywood Reporter. He says he’ll file a motion for summary judgment on the Neverland claim on Tuesday for a hearing scheduled for April 27.
“I think the lifting of the stay is appropriate, and we’ll just proceed forward with a narrower task,” the estate’s attorney Howard Weitzman tells THR. He adds that the estate’s attorneys plan to complete more discovery before filing new motions.
The commission is expected to issue its decision soon on the other matters. Judge Beckloff set a trial for next year for the entire case, but he noted the date is “very premature” given the uncertainty of the Commission’s timing.
Read more here