A Lucrative Legacy Battle for Michael Jackson's Estate Hits Germany

German businessmen have become embroiled in a battle over money from the estate of the late pop legend Michael Jackson, who generated $310 million in revenues in the year after his death. At the center of the affair is the King of Pop's some-time manager from the town of Rodgau in Germany.

DPA

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On the website of music manager Dieter Wiesner, Michael Jackson seems as full of life as ever. A multitude of colorful pictures show the singer alongside a tall, slightly heavily built German man from Rodgau near Frankfurt. "Wiesner worked with Jackson on the majority of all his concerts and in 2002 ... became Michael Jackson's personal manager," it says online.

At that point, Michael Jackson's best years were well behind him. "I took care of everything for Michael," Wiesner says today. "We weren't just business partners; we were also very, very good friends." The music manager says he even lived in his own guesthouse on Jackson's Neverland Ranch, near the children's train.

Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, leaving the justice system to deal with the pop star's glitzy world -- as well as a world of shadows in Rodgau.

Conrad Murray, Jackson's personal doctor, is facing trial in Los Angeles. The district attorney's office accused the doctor last May, in front of TV cameras, of having negligently caused the singer's death by prescribing Propofol and a cocktail of other sedatives.

Jacko's Global Brand

Public prosecutors in Frankfurt, meanwhile, are investigating Wiesner. A former German business partner claims Wiesner cheated his celebrity friend, and above all the business partner himself. He alleges that Wiesner illegally acquired rights to Michael Jackson's global brand name, purchased a decade ago by the German company MJ Net AG.

Wiesner met Jackson in 1994, when he got the singer interested in a peach-flavored energy drink called "MJ Mystery Drink." The music manager repeatedly managed to gain close access to the singer, who was increasingly known to be suffering from illness and prescription drug abuse. Wiesner eventually became Jackson's manager.

On Sept. 30, 2000, the Frankfurt-based company MJ Net Entertainment managed to obtain a licensing agreement with Jackson and his company Triumph International, possibly through Wiesner's intercession. The artist, a famous individual in the entertainment industry, wishes to produce and merchandise certain products which bear his name, his symbols, logos, brands, designs and images or photographs of him, the introduction to the contract states. MJ Net, as the license holder, the contract continues, retained the sole and unconditional right to enter into third-party contracts concerning production or matters relating to licensed products. Any T-shirts or other items bearing the artist's image would garner royalties for MJ Net and Jackson himself, according to the company's business plan, was to have a stake in the company.

The licensing agreement also drew interest in MJ Net from German Internet entrepreneur Klaus Landefeld, 42, who quickly discovered that contact with Jackson's company went through Wiesner. Landefeld couldn't believe his luck when Wiesner quickly obtained approval from Jackson's company that additionally allowed MJ Net the global online use of Jackson's name. Landefeld gave the company a loan and purchased a block of the company's shares from Jürgen Bachus, chairman of the board at MJ Net.

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