Los Angeles. Michael Jackson’s parents wasted little time demanding authority over their son’s financially strained empire and guardianship of their fatherless grandchildren. The big question is who, if anyone, will contest them?
On Monday, just four days after the death of the King of Pop, lawyers for Katherine and Joe Jackson won temporary custody of Michael Jackson’s three children and moved to become administrators of his estate.
Judge Mitchell Beckloff granted 79-year-old Katherine Jackson temporary guardianship of the children, who range in age from 7 to 12. He also gave her control over some of her son’s personal property that is now in the hands of an unnamed third party. But the judge did not immediately rule on her requests to take charge of the children’s and Jackson’s estates.
The swiftness of the legal motions underscores the fact that Jackson’s death leaves a vacuum if he died without a valid will, as the parents assert in documents filed in Superior Court. If no will is filed, the number of potential claimants that could emerge seeking custody of the children or a piece of his empire are many.
About the same time a judge granted Katherine Jackson authority over at least some of her son’s estate on Friday, pickup trucks and a large dump truck towing a flatbed were seen entering the 2,500-acre Neverland Ranch, a major piece of the singer’s debt-strapped financial empire. It was not clear who had requested the fleet or for what purpose.
L. Londell McMillan, the family’s attorney, said in a statement that the Jacksons are pleased with the results of their Monday filings.
“The personal and legal priorities are focused on first protecting the best interests of Mr. Michael Jackson’s children, his family, his memorial services and then preserving his creative and business legacy with the dignity and honor it deserves,’’ the statement read.
Clearly one of his most valuable assets is his recording catalogue, which his father could potentially re-release through his new record company if the family gains control of his assets. There could also be recordings in Jackson’s estate that he had never released.
There’s also a financial bonanza to be had in the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalogue of which Jackson owned 50 percent. The 750,000-song catalogue includes music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga and the Jonas Brothers, and is estimated to be worth as much as $2 billion.
When Jackson died on Thursday, he also left behind a 12-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter by his ex-wife Deborah Rowe, as well as a 7-year-old son born to a surrogate mother.
The Jackson family said the children — Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. (known as Prince Michael), Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael II — are living at the Jackson family compound in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.