LOS ANGELES (AP) — The head of the company promoting Michael Jackson’s ill-fated comeback concerts told jurors Thursday that he never consulted a mental health professional to help the singer despite two high-level show workers suggesting it was necessary.
AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips testified about emails he sent and received in the week before Jackson’s death, including a production manager’s characterization that the entertainer’s condition was “deteriorating.”
Phillips is testifying in a negligent hiring case filed by Jackson’s mother against AEG Live LLC, claiming the company failed to properly investigate the doctor convicted of giving her son a lethal dose of an anesthetic. Her lawyers also contend that Phillips and AEG Live executives ignored signs of Jackson’s poor health and pushed the entertainer to perform.
Emails displayed to jurors hearing the case show that Phillips told Jackson’s business manager he believed the singer might have breached his contract by missing rehearsals. The email was sent June 20, 2009, five days before the “Thriller” singer died from an overdose of propofol.
“And I thought it couldn’t get worse,” the business manager, Michael Kane, responded. Phillips said Kane had been seeking a $1 million advance for Jackson against the earnings of his “This Is It” shows.
Phillips’ email to Kane came hours after the tour director, Kenny Ortega, and production manager, John Hougdahl, emailed Phillips telling them that Jackson was in such a poor emotional state that he couldn’t rehearse that night and had to be sent home.
“I have watched him deteriorate in front of my eyes over the last 8 weeks,” Hougdahl wrote. “He was able to do multiple 360 spins back in April. He’d fall on his ass if he tried it now.”
According to Hougdahl, Jackson said earlier that night after watching a pyrotechnics demonstration, “You aren’t going to kill the artist, are you?”
He wrote to Phillips that the entertainer, whose scalp was badly burned while shooting a Pepsi commercial in 1984, didn’t appear to be referring to the fireworks.
In a later email, Hougdahl told Phillips he believed Jackson needed a mental examination. “My layman’s degree tells me he needs a shrink to get him mentally prepared to get him prepared to get on stage,” he wrote.
Ortega also wrote to Phillips hours later, urging that Jackson get some psychological help.
Earlier that night, Jackson had been “trembling, rambling and obsessive,” according to Ortega, who wrote to Phillips that the singer seemed unable to rehearse due to “real emotional stuff.”
Phillips has yet to testify about a meeting he had with Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray.
Jackson died before signing Murray’s $150,000-a-month contract to accompany him for 50 shows planned at London’s O2 Arena. AEG denies it hired Murray, and several of its executives have testified that the former physician’s fee would have been deducted from Jackson’s earnings for the “This Is It” shows.
Phillips is the highest-ranking AEG Live executive to testify in the trial, which has concluded its sixth week. He denied Thursday that he ever threatened Jackson over missed rehearsals.
“We would have never dealt with Michael that way,” he said.
He also rejected the idea that he was responsible for Jackson’s health.
“I’m not responsible for his medical needs,” Phillips said. “We’re promoters — that’s what we do.”
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP .