Michael Jackson might be too sick to travel to London to testify in a suit claiming he owes an Arab sheikh $7 million, the pop star’s attorney said today (Nov. 18).
Jackson is seeking to give his testimony by video link from the United States. “It would be unwise for him to travel, given what’s he’s got now,” lawyer Robert Englehart said, declining to elaborate “for the obvious reasons.”
Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa’s lawyer, Bankim Thanki, said the medical evidence presented by Jackson’s legal team was “very unsatisfactory” and Jackson’s illness could be treated with a bandage “if the diagnosis is positive.”
“It’s not the first time a sick note has been presented by Mr. Jackson,” Thanki said, also without elaborating.
Jackson has often been seen wearing a surgical mask in public. In one infamous 2002 court appearance in California, he appeared to have a bandage hanging from his hollowed-out nose.
The judge in the current case, Nigel Sweeney, said he would decide the question of Jackson’s travel on Thursday to allow time for medical experts on both legal teams to talk.
Khalifa, the second son of the king of Bahrain, claims that Jackson reneged on a contract for an album, a candid autobiography and a stage play, after accepting millions from the sheikh. Al Khalifa was in court today for the second day of arguments and testimony.
The case is being tried in London by mutual agreement, Al Khalifa’s representatives have said. It is due to wrap up by the end of the month.
Al Khalifa felt betrayed when the pop star pulled out of the deal, Thanki said. After Jackson left Bahrain, never to return, his publicist later called Al Khalifa to say Jackson no longer wanted any part of the contract. Thanki said.
“It’s fair to say my client felt a considerable sense of betrayal by someone he thought was a close friend,” Thanki said, adding that the sheikh, an amateur songwriter, also felt “a sense of professional failure.”
Thanki said Al Khalifa and Jackson were planning to establish a joint venture to put out a new Michael Jackson album, an autobiography, and a stage play.
They hoped to make millions from the project — Jackson’s autobiography, intended to be “a frank and personal account” of the singer’s life, was alone expected to rack up $24 million, Thanki said. In the meanwhile, Al Khalifa gave Jackson millions of dollars to help shore up his finances and subsidize Jackson’s lifestyle in the small Gulf state.
Thanki said Al Khalifa considered the money an advance on the profits Jackson would reap from their pop music project, but Englehart said the money was a gift. “Sheikh Abdulla, fortunately for himself, had the resources to be so generous,” Englehart said.
Englehart argued that Jackson wasn’t bound by the deal he struck because the contract was technically signed on behalf of 2 Seas Records, a venture which never got off the ground. “This (contract) was one brick in the building that was never built,” Englehart said.
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