LOS ANGELES, Calif. — AEG Live executives feared Michael Jackson would sabotage his comeback concerts five days before his death, the company’s CEO testified Thursday.
Randy Phillips refused to advance money to help Jackson pay his staff because he believed the singer was “in an anticipatory breach” of his contract because he had missed rehearsals, he testified.
Phillips testified in the sixth week of the trial to decide whether the concert promoter is liable in Jackson’s death for the negligent hiring, retention or supervision of Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
The lawsuit filed by Jackson’s mother and children contends that Phillips and other AEG Live executives pressured Jackson to attend rehearsals despite his deteriorating health and ignored red flags that should have warned them about the dangers posed by Murray.
Jackson lawyers questioned Phillips about his e-mail exchanges with Michael Kane — Jackson’s business manager — when Kane asked for an advance, which was provided for in Jackson’s contract with AEG Live for his “This Is It” tour.
Phillips said he was concerned that because Jackson had missed so many rehearsals, the show would not be ready for its debut in London on July 13, 2009.
“This is why it is impossible to advance any :,” Phillips wrote to Kane on June 20, 2009. “He may, unfortunately, be in an anticipatory breach at this point.”
“And I thought it couldn’t get worse,” Kane replied.
“It could,” Phillips said. “(Show director) Kenny Ortega could quit.”
Phillips’ testimony that he believed Jackson was contractually obligated to attend rehearsals contradicted AEG Live Co-CEO Paul Gongware’s previous testimony that Jackson was not required to rehearse.
Phillips acknowledged that by June 20, 2009, he was worried the production would not be ready on time
Kane, in an e-mail to Phillips, offered to help motivate Jackson to get to rehearsals. “Would a financial coming to Jesus speech help or add to his pressure?” Kane asked.
“It would help,” Phillips replied. “At this point, we need to break through. I’m going to call his doctor to discuss.”
Later that day, Phillips and other AEG Live executives met with Murray and Jackson at the singer’s home. The Jackson lawyers contend at that meeting they put Murray in charge of having Jackson at rehearsals.
AEG Live lawyers claim the company executives had no way of knowing that Murray was giving Jackson nightly infusions of the surgical anesthetic propofol to treat his insomnia.
The Los Angeles County coroner ruled that Jackson died from an overdose of propofol on June 25, 2009.
Alan Duke | CNN