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Michael Jackson died with $500 million in debt

DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES
                                Michael Jackson at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, in March 2004. Jackson, the creator of some of the biggest-selling albums of all time, had debts totaling more than $500 million when he died at age 50 in 2009, according to a court filing.
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DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Michael Jackson at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, in March 2004. Jackson, the creator of some of the biggest-selling albums of all time, had debts totaling more than $500 million when he died at age 50 in 2009, according to a court filing.

Michael Jackson’s debts and creditors’ claims at the time of his death in 2009 totaled more than $500 million, according to a court filing by the pop superstar’s estate that provides details of his financial woes toward the end of his life.

Jackson owed about $40 million to tour promoter AEG, according to the filing, which was made in Los Angeles County Superior Court this month and earlier reported by People magazine. The filing said that 65 creditors made claims against the singer after his death, some of which resulted in lawsuits, and that some of his debt had been “accruing interest at extremely high interest rates.”

A representative for the Jackson estate, which is executed by John Branca and John McClain, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The estate filed the court papers as a request to authorize the payment of about $3.5 million to several legal firms for their work in the second half of 2018.

In the court filing, the executors say that they have eliminated the estate’s debt and that almost all of the creditors’ claims and litigation have been resolved.

Jackson earned hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the 1980s and 1990s as the creator of some of the bestselling albums of all time, along with dazzling concert tours that filled stadiums around the world. He bought the Beatles’ song catalog for $47.5 million in 1985 and later sold it to Sony/ATV Music in exchange for a 50% share in the company. Sony bought back the estate’s share for $750 million in 2016.

But when Jackson died at the age of 50, shortly before he was supposed to embark on a tour called This Is It, he left behind a tangled web of assets and liabilities.

Jackson was famous for his lavish lifestyle and spent money with abandon. He incurred millions of dollars in debt from his Neverland Ranch estate in Southern California and had a penchant for expensive art, jewelry and private jets. He was paying more than $30 million annually on interest payments, a forensic accountant testified during a 2013 wrongful-death trial in which AEG prevailed.

The Jackson estate is currently in a dispute with the IRS after a tax audit. In a separate court filing this year, the estate said that the federal agency accused it of undervaluing its assets and said it owed “an additional $700 million in taxes and penalties.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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