In an explosive report delivered this weekend by Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera…Rivera went well beyond implying that Michael Jackson’s concert promoter, AEG, had an interest in the King of Pop’s Death—he used context and comments by Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine, to accuse AEG of having the man killed whose comeback tour they were promoting. At the root of Rivera’s allegation is an insurance policy for seventeen million dollars that he reports AEG wants to collect on. And adding a tanker truckload of fuel to the fire, is a deal between AEG and Sony to turn AEG’s footage of Michael Jackson’s preparations for his concert tour into two feature length motion pictures—GERALDO SAYS AEG IS TO BE PAID SIXTY MILLION DOLLARS FOR THIS FOOTAGE!!!
Of course AEG denies Geraldo’s allegations…And I know for a fact that AEG President Tim Leiweke has said that this story is going away today—I assume he’s pulling some of those power strings AEG has paid for or threatening Fox with legal action; take your pick. But what everyone has to be asking right now is why did this very same person said that AEG had no financial interest in Michael Jackson’s funeral event held at Staple’s Center? This lack of financial interest is how Mr. Leiweke justified sticking the city with a 1.4 million dollar bill for event related city services. Trying to dissuade ticket holders from cashing in 50 million dollars worth of tickets + 17 million in insurance money (according to Geraldo) + 60 million dollar movie deal = 127 million dollars of financial interest, if Rivera is right.
So, I’ve gone after AEG for a number of issues ranging from taking 300 million in tax credits from the public and not giving the community the events in the public space it promised to being a bad corporate citizen to being in the blogging business and not properly disclosing the obvious conflict of interest when making Tammy Billings the director of marketing for LA Live also the LA Live Examiner. But turning an enormous profit on the apparent murder of Michael Jackson? I write a pretty good novel every now and then and even I couldn’t dream this one up.
I hate the corrupt corporate culture that AEG has brought to our town. They’ve taken our tax credits, involved themselves in our politics, brought nothing but outsiders to manage a project meant to vacuum money back to the Big Boss Phil Anschutz in Denver—and now everyone in Los Angeles has to suffer through the embarrassment of a report that accuses AEG of being in some way responsible for the death of Michael Jackson.
In the first blog I wrote critical of AEG LA Live I made it clear that I had been a supporter of the project and had hoped to have a business relationship with the project that would allow independent blogging 24 / 7 – this did not happen. And I went on to say that putting downtownster’s own financial interest aside it was a very bad business decision by AEG not to have a media presence that demanded transparency and couldn’t be bought—a bad business decision and a major red flag. However, when I consider all of the aforementioned, I’ve met and spoken to Tim Leiwke on several occasions and I can’t imagine AEG / his involvement in this Michael Jackson fiasco being anything close to Geraldo Rivera’s sensational allegations; and they are allegations even if couched in innuendo.
Even I, AEG’s harshest critic, can’t get on board with the report I watched this weekend. But I’ve been calling AEG out for months and they should have been listening. Tim Leiweke and gang need to seriously rethink how they do business and what their responsibilities are to the local community. That includes not getting involved in situations that are so murky Geraldo comes to town.
Twenty years ago the rag known as the LA Times did a hit job on me. So make no mistake about it, I know what a hit job is and downtownster will never be involved in this kind of storytelling. But because downtownster has never been given the access we’ve asked for I cannot defend LA Live from what’s being alleged, but I can say this—Geraldo Rivera and the Jackson Family need to clarify their allegations and put some real proof on the table.
And then let the chips fall where they may.