Quincy Jones sues The Estate of Michael Jackson & Sony Music Entertainment; Queen awaiting Estate go-ahead on Jackson / Freddie Mercury duets

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The Estate of Michael Jackson isn’t exactly popular with many people these days, including Quincy Jones. Jones, one of the most successful arrangers and producers in music history, is suing The Estate, and Sony Music, for upwards of $10 million.

Throughout his career, which spans six decades and boasts an astonishing 27 Grammy Awards, Jones worked with an array of legendary acts including Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, The Brothers Johnson, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. But it’s decade-long collaboration with Michael Jackson for which he is best-known.

Jones produced Jackson’s three most iconic solo albums; ‘Off The Wall’ (1979), ‘Thriller’ (1982) and ‘Bad’ (1987). ‘Thriller’, as we all know, holds the record as the biggest selling album in the history of recorded music. It is the music within these albums that forms the basis of the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on October 25, 2013.

Read the official documents filed with LA Superior Court here: Quincy Jones vs MJJ Productions, Inc. and Sony Music Entertainment

To put it simply; Jones alleges that those in charge of Jackson’s posthumous empire have entered into secret side-agreements with Sony, referred to throughout the court filings as “Clandestine Agreements”, in order to cheat him out of the royalties to which he believes he is entitled, based on contractual agreements made between himself and Jackson in the 70s and 80s.

Jones claims that these “Clandestine Agreements” were made in an attempt to divert revenues to MJJ Productions, Inc. and disguise those revenues as profits instead of royalties.

“Quincy has been frustrated with these matters for a number of years, felt he was not making any progress and needed to take more formal action,” says Jones’ attorney, Henry Gradstein, as quoted on The Hollywood Reporter.

As always, The Estate’s attorney, Howard Weitzman, was quick to respond with a cleverly-worded statement.

“[The Estate] was saddened to learn that Quincy Jones has filed a lawsuit seeking money from Michael’s estate. To the best of its knowledge, Mr. Jones has been appropriately compensated over approximately 35 years for his work with Michael,” Weitzman told The Hollywood Reporter.

Jones is pursuing The Estate and Sony for in excess of $10 million in breach-of-contract damages and unpaid master recording royalties. He’s also demanding an accounting.

Jones isn’t the first person to question the accounting methods of The Estate. In fact, in July 2012 Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, requested an extensive audit of The Estate’s financial activities.

To be clear, although Katherine Jackson and Michael’s three children; Prince, Paris and Blanket are the “beneficiaries” of Michael Jackson’s Estate, they are not in a position of power within the Estate itself. All power is in the hands of controversial co-executors John Branca and John McClain.

Speaking on her behalf, Katherine’s attorney, Perry Sanders, told Radar Online: “My audit is being done to see the details of where the money is coming from and where it is going … The beneficiaries should be entitled to all detailed documentation so they can see what THEIR money is paying for.”

Katherine Jackson’s lawyers submitted legal documents on July 19, 2012 requesting the “production of supporting documents for account current.”

The document states: “Ms. Katherine Jackson hereby requests that representatives John Branca, John McClain and counsel for the Estate of Michael Jackson produce for inspection and audit all supporting documents for the Second Account Current and Report of Status of Administration and Petition.”

Lawyers for The Estate chose not to comply with Katherine Jackson’s requests, instead responding with the following: “John Branca and John McClain object to the Request to the extent that it is vague and ambiguous as to the phrase ‘all supporting documents for the Second Account Current’ in that the Request encompasses thousands of pages of documents which potentially support the Second Account Current…Responding Party (the executors) objects to the Request to the extent that it seeks highly confidential business and financial information…it will not produce such documents absent the entry of a stipulation and protective order governing, among other things, the access to and use highly confidential documents.”

Then, in August 2013 the IRS, in U.S. Tax Court, claimed that The Estate of Michael Jackson owed them $702 million – $505.1 million in federal taxes and $196.9 million in penalties – accusing The Estate of undervaluing some of Michael Jackson’s assets by up to hundreds of millions of dollars.

The King of Pop’s “image and likeness” was valued by the IRS at $434 million. According to The Estate, its actual taxable value was a measly $2,105.

The most significant taxable item was The Estate’s stake in some of Michael Jackson’s music publishing assets, listed as MJ/ATV Publishing Trust interest in New Horizon Trust II – valued by the IRS at $469 million but not valued in The Estate’s 2009 filing.

The Estate’s attorney, Howard Weitzman, said the IRS’s appraisal values “were based on speculative and erroneous assumptions unsupported by the facts or law,” adding that, “The executors are disappointed the IRS continues to overreach in this matter but firmly believes all issues will be resolved in favour of the estate and the beneficiaries.”

Weitzman also noted that The Estate had paid over $100 million in taxes and is “in full compliance with the tax laws.”

Under U.S. Tax Court rules, The Estate of Michael Jackson will not be forced to pay the alleged tax deficit or any penalties unless the court rules in favour of the IRS. The matter is still pending.

Also displeased with The Estate of Michael Jackson is Roger Taylor of legendary UK rock band Queen.

Taylor is frustrated with the continued delays surrounding the posthumous release of two to three highly-anticipated duets between the late Queen front man, Freddie Mercury, and deceased King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

“Queen rocker Roger Taylor blames the executors of Michael Jackson’s estate for a four-year delay in the release of the Thriller star’s secret duets with Freddie Mercury,” wrote Contact Music on September 26, 2013.

The songs, called “There Must Be More To Life Than This”, “State Of Shock” and “Victory”, were recorded at Jackson’s home studio in Encino, California approximately 30 years ago and were never completed by the duo.

“Freddie and Michael never finished the songs, because Queen had to leave L.A. to go on tour. Brian and I have worked on them, which means they’ll come out as Queen and Michael Jackson – hopefully… if the Michael Jackson estate can get its arse into gear,” Taylor is quoted as telling Mojo Magazine.

“They’ve been hanging around for years and years and Michael’s estate haven’t really been able to make their mind up about what to do with them,” he later added in an interview with Classic Rock Magazine. “So we suggested we finish them and see. They’re pretty good – one of them is great.”

And so, Queen guitarist Brian May began working on bringing the songs to completion. Since then, it’s been a topic of curiosity for both Michael Jackson and Queen fans.

Back in July 2013, May was quoted as saying there will be, “something for folks to hear” in two months time. However, two months came and went, and the tracks were never released.

And so the question remains: When will the songs come out?

“I think we’re in [The Estate of Michael Jackson’s] hands. But obviously, you know, I mean… here they are. We think they’re finished to our satisfaction. If you give us the go ahead we’ll put them out. It’s as simple as that really.”

Audio of Taylor’s mention of the Jackson / Mercury tracks can be heard below:

Michael Jackson & Freddie Mercury – “State Of Shock”

Michael Jackson & Freddie Mercury – “There Must Be More To Life Than This”

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