Michael Jackson will start an open-ended run of performances at London's O2 Arena on July 9, according to a Billboard source.

The shows, Jackson's first scheduled full concerts since 2001, will be announced at a press conference today at the arena at 4:00 p.m. (March 5). The first 10 dates will begin July 9 and the run will be extended as long as demand dictates. Jackson is expected to appear at the news conference for the announcement.

The deal has been in the works for two years, as previously reported by Billboard. The shows will be promoted by AEG Live, which also put together Prince's record-setting run of 21 sellouts at the O2 that grossed more than $22 million. The Spice Girls, Take That, and Kylie Minogue all have played multiple nights at the London arena, and Britney Spears has an eight night run scheduled for June

If organizers hope to see a return of the fan frenzy that once followed Jackson everywhere, they may be disappointed. Only a handful of people joined the packs of press photographers and camera crews Wednesday outside Jackson's London hotel -- and several of those said they were seeking autographs to sell on eBay.

But even if Jacksonmania is a diminished force, his comeback would be a huge event.

One of the best-selling artists of all time, Jackson has sold more than 750 million albums and won 13 Grammy awards. "Thriller," released in 1982, is still the best-selling album of all time.

Jackson has not released a studio album or played a full concert since 2001. His last major tour was the HIStory World Tour in 1996-1997.

Since then, Jackson's ever-changing appearance and erratic behavior have often overshadowed his music.

He was arrested in 2003 on child-molestation charges and acquitted in 2005 after a trial in California. Since then he has traveled the world, spending time in Ireland, France and the Gulf state of Bahrain.

His last live performance in Britain was at the 2006 World Music Awards. He was scheduled to perform "We Are the World" but only managed a few lines before leaving the stage.

He has struggled to pay his debts after his financial empire crumbled following his arrest. Last year he was forced to give up the deed to Neverland, his 2,500-acre (1,000 hectare) ranch and miniature amusement park in California.

In November, Jackson reached an undisclosed settlement with a Bahraini prince who had brought a $7 million breach of contract suit against him.

In April, Jackson will auction more than 2,000 personal items from Neverland, including platinum and gold records, a customized Harley Davidson and a Rolls Royce limousine.

His health is rumored to be as precarious as his finances. He often looks gaunt in photographs, and rumors of his condition have ranged from lung disease to an infection acquired during nose surgery.

Bookmaker William Hill is already taking bets on whether Jackson will show up for his first gig. It is offering 5/1 odds that he won't, and spokesman Graham Sharpe anticipates brisk business.

"Once people start buying tickets they may well want to have a bet that he won't show up as a form of insurance," Sharpe said.

Aizlewood said he would bet on the ever-erratic Jackson pulling it off.

"This is Michael Jackson playing his greatest hits -- some of the greatest hits in the history of music - live," Aizlewood said. "It is a great event. I think even Michael Jackson won't blow it."

Additional reporting by Ray Waddell in Nashville

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