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Former Michael Jackson manager wins court case over unpaid legal settlement

By | Published on Monday 20 July 2020

Michael Jackson

Former Michael Jackson manager Tohme Tohme has won a legal challenge against the late musician’s estate in a dispute over a past dispute. Or, more precisely, over an agreement that settled a past dispute. Although that agreement was never formalised in writing, a judge has stated that an oral agreement was nevertheless reached, and therefore the estate is obliged to stump up the $3 million it promised.

Tohme began working with Jackson in 2008 and claimed that his efforts turned around public perception of the star significantly, paving the way for him to announce his O2 Arena residency in London. Those were the shows, of course, that never happened because of Jackson’s death in 2009.

In 2010, Tohme launched legal action claiming that the estate had failed to pay him money he was owed under his contract with Jackson. That included 15% of his former client’s income in the last year of his life and a share of the revenues generated by the movie made out of footage from rehearsals for the O2 shows.

The Jackson estate countered that Tohme’s contract was terminated prior to the musician’s death and also that the inclusion of a $35,000 monthly fee in his contract was unethical, meaning that the manager had breached his fiduciary duties to Jackson. Therefore he shouldn’t get any cash.

The whole thing finally got to court in May last year. As part of those proceedings, Tohme wanted the fees that estate administrators John Branca and John McClain earn to be disclosed, claiming that the work they have done since Jackson’s death is comparable to that he did before it. But before that could happen, the court hearing was halted after it was announced that a deal had been reached.

At the time, in a statement, the Jackson estate said that it had “amicably settled” Tohme’s lawsuit, adding that it acknowledged “his efforts on Michael’s behalf”. The settlement amount was not made public at the time, but was then subsequently revealed after Tohme sued again, saying that he was never actually paid.

In the second dispute, the estate argued that Tohme had never signed an agreement it put together to formally put the settlement terms in writing. Tohme countered that the written agreement contained terms that were not discussed when the estate was trying to bring the court hearing to a halt. And also that what had been agreed at that time was a binding oral agreement anyway.

Last week, LA County Superior Court judge Mark A Young agreed with Tohme. In his ruling, reports The Hollywood Reporter, Young said: “Here, the parties orally agreed to all of the terms and conditions of a settlement agreement. [The Jackson estate] fails to produce any evidence that parties intended for there to be a binding contract after a writing was produced, such that there exists a material issue of disputed fact”.

So, definitely a win for Tohme, who should now receive his money. Although the judge also said that he would only get the cash on the assurance that he would not try to sue the Jackson estate over any other matters in the future. Which was the main reason the estate said it wanted a written agreement to start with.