Michael Jackson avoided a much-anticipated appearance in London’s High
Court by reaching an out-of-court settlement with Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad
Al Khalifa, the prince of Bahrain, who was suing him for $7 million.
“As Mr. Jackson was about to board his plane to London, he was advised by
his legal team to postpone his travels since the parties had concluded a
settlement in principle,” Celina Aponte, Jackson’s London-based spokeswoman,
said late on Sunday.
Jackson was scheduled to testify this morning. The reclusive pop star
originally asked to appear by video link from Los Angeles, citing an
unspecified illness, but agreed to travel after doctors gave him the all
clear. Court officials anticipated so much interest in Jackson’s appearance
that they took the unusual step of issuing admission tickets to media
outlets that hoped to cover the case.
The courtroom thriller began last Thursday. Al Khalifa, 33, testified that
Jackson, 50, reneged on a contract for a new album, an autobiography and a
stage play after accepting millions of dollars in advances. The sheik said
that in addition to covering Jacko’s living and travel expenses during his
year-long stay in Bahrain, he built the singer a recording studio, spent
more than $300,000 securing him a “motivational guru” and gave him $250,000
in cash so Jackson “could entertain his friends at Christmas.” Jackson has
maintained that these were gifts from the Arab prince, an interpretation Al
Khalifa denies. “Many times he confirmed that he would pay me back,” the
The two men’s lives became intertwined in June 2005 after Jackson was
cleared of charges that he molested a 13-year-old boy in California. That
trial left Jackson, once one of the world’s wealthiest entertainers, in
financial tatters. Al Khalifa offered Jackson refuge in his oil-rich Gulf
state and, the sheik’s lawyer said, footed Jackson’s $2.2 million legal
Al Khalifa, who fancies himself an amateur songwriter, also said the two men
moved into the same palace to collaborate on music together.
In court on Thursday, Jackson’s lawyers argued that the sheik’s case was
based on “mistake, misrepresentation and undue influence” and in their
defense planned to demonstrate that Al Khalifa exploited Jackson’s
vulnerability and lack of business sense.
“Michael is an individual who is very switched-on,” Al Khalifa told the
court. “He is a fantastic intellectual.”
“There’s nothing unusual about him” asked Robert Englehart, Jackson’s
“No,” Al Khalifa said.
History suggests otherwise. Last week, Jackson defaulted on the $23.5
million he owes for Neverland, the ranch he bought in 1988 and named after
the mythical realm of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. Jackson has said
the ranch was intended to recreate the magical childhood experiences that
stardom denied him. “It’s like stepping into Oz,” he once said. “Once you
come in the gates, the outside world does not exist.”
The defense also called upon Grace Rwaramba, nanny to Jackson’s three
children, to demonstrate that the sheik was a generous benefactor who was
eager to lavish Jacko with gifts.
“He would say, ‘What can I do for my brother What can I give the
children’ ” Rwaramba said. She also testified that she was “flabbergasted”
when the sheik wired her $35,000 because Jackson was so broke that he did
not even have a bank account. She claims the sheik apologized for what he
considered a paltry sum of money and said that “next time it would be
more.” Jackson reportedly used the money to pay his utility bills at
In the face of his financial and legal battles, Jackson has reportedly made
moves to find peace by converting to Islam, according to British tabloid the
Sun. It reports that ahead of the court case last week, Jackson went through
the shahada, the Muslim declaration of belief, in the Hollywood Hills home
of Steve Porcaro, the man who composed music on Jackson’s Thriller album.
Jackson has reportedly taken the name of Mikaeel, one of Allah’s angels.
See pictures of movie costumes.
See the 100 best albums of all time.