x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Promoter faces huge losses

Entertainer's death leaves company facing uncertain liabilities for the concerts that had been scheduled for London.

The concert promoter AEG Live faces a bill of more than US$100 million (Dh367m) in refunds and losses following Michael Jackson's death. The promoter had sold more than 750,000 tickets - each with a face value between £50 and £75 (Dh300-Dh450) - for a series of 50 concerts Jackson was set to perform in London over the coming year. AEG had also paid a US$20 million (Dh73m) advance to Jackson, and spent at least $10m in preparations and rehearsals for the concerts, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The company had booked London's O2 arena - the largest indoor concert facility in Europe - until March 2010 to accommodate the shows, which were announced with great fanfare last year. Many observers predicted that Jackson, whose reputation as a musical genius was complemented in the past decade by his eccentricity and unreliability, would struggle to meet the schedule. Such a long string of performances would test even the best entertainers in the prime of their careers, and Jackson had not undertaken a significant live tour in more than 10 years.

"AEG chose potentially the most ambitious run of dates in the history of the concert business," Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard magazine, told Associated Press. "Now they're going to have to orchestrate the most ambitious refund programme in the history of the concert business." AEG, owned by the billionaire investor Philip Anschutz, said it had obtained insurance policies covering its liabilities for the series of concerts. But industry figures were quoted as saying such policies may be void if Jackson's death was caused by a pre-existing medical condition or misuse of prescription drugs. Both theories are being aired as possible reasons for the star's premature death.

AEG has said it will issue information regarding refunds in the days ahead, but the process could be complicated. A large proportion of the tickets was sold to online resale agents who had been charging individuals several times the face value. Many people in the industry believe there will be fans who will choose to retain their tickets as mementos of Jackson's life, rather than return them for a refund.

tgara@thenational.ae