Michael Jackson’s sudden death has thrown the peculiar path of his later life back into the spotlight.
He spent much of the past four years flitting from one part of the globe to another, failing to put down permanent roots. However, one of his longest spells in one place was spent in Bahrain. When his life was falling apart at the seams in 2005 he was offered sanctuary in the Persian Gulf kingdom. He had been just been acquitted of 10 child abuse charges at the end of a 14-week trial in the U.S., but there appeared to be no respite from the bad publicity and his spiraling debts which had forced the sale of his Neverland ranch. He suffered health problems during the trial and appeared increasingly frail. Jackson, who died owing an estimated $500 million, had been living beyond his means for years and wanted to flee the spotlight. He had not been seen in the two weeks after the trial before reports emerged from Bahrain that he and his children had landed there on a private jet as the guests of Sheikh Abdulla Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the king’s son, and a friend of Jackson’s brother, Jermaine. It was claimed at the time that Jackson had a large fan base in the kingdom and wider Gulf region. Watch why Jackson is “as big as it gets” » Indeed Bahrain, a chain of around 30 islands with a population of 766,000 and relaxed social social environment, appeared the perfect escape — for 11 months anyway. It was made even more enticing by Sheikh Abdulla’s generosity. In 2008 he sued Jackson in a Britain’s High Court for £4.7 million ($7.7 million), claiming the pop star had reneged on a music contract.
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Sheikh Abdulla said he had paid all of Jackson’s living, travel and other expenses until his departure from Bahrain in May 2006, and advanced funds to retain legal and financial advisers. Watch Jesse Jackson share memories » Sheikh Abdulla also built a recording studio, which he believed would be used to record albums using material he had helped to write. However, he claimed the singer pulled out of the deal in May 2006 after 11 months. iReport.com: Your Michael Jackson tributes Jackson claimed the payments were gifts. In November last year the High Court in London was told the dispute had ended with an “amicable settlement,” the details of which remain confidential.