NEW YORK — Michael Jackson claimed to have a net worth of US$236 million as of March 31, 2007, according to financial documents obtained by The Associated Press that shed light on the late pop star’s murky finances and prodigious borrowing.
The documents also show he had little cash on hand to finance his lavish lifestyle. They offer the clearest account yet on the state of Jackson’s financial empire, which is expected to become the focus of a legal battle between the singer’s family and creditors.
Jackson had $567.6 million in assets, including his Neverland Ranch, his share of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalogue that includes the rights to songs by the Beatles, and an assortment of cars, antiques and collectibles, according to a statement of financial condition prepared by Washington, D.C.-based accounting firm Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio&Associates.
The report was prepared at a time when Jackson had large sums of debt coming due that had to be refinanced. The financial statement was based in large part on estimates provided by Jackson’s advisers that the accounting firm said it could not verify.
The documents obtained by the AP don’t show how much money he had coming in that year or how much he was spending, which makes it hard to estimate just how cash-poor he was. Still, the statement paints a pictures of Jackson’s tangled finances and the mountain of debt he left behind.
The five-page report says Jackson had debts of $331 million, leaving him with a net worth of $236.6 million. Highlighting his shaky financial health, the singer known for his lavish shopping sprees had just $668,215 in cash, according to the report, which is dated June 12, 2007.
The accounting firm did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The report puts a net value on Jackson’s 50 per cent stake in the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalogue — his most prized assets — at $390.6 million. The 750,000-song catalogue includes music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga and the Jonas Brothers.
Another of Jackson’s prized possessions, his Neverland Ranch, is valued at $33 million, according to the report. It says Jackson took out a $23 million loan against the 1,011-hectare property in the rolling hills of Santa Barbara County.
He also had $20 million worth of cars, antiques, collectibles and other property.
Jackson died Thursday of what his family has said was cardiac arrest. Medical examiners in Los Angeles are perhaps weeks away from officially determining the cause of death.
The divvying up of Jackson’s assets — and the settling of his debts — are likely to be hotly contested in court. On Monday, four days after Jackson’s death, lawyers for Katherine and Joe Jackson won temporary custody of Michael Jackson’s three children and moved to become administrators of his estate.
A judge granted 79-year-old Katherine Jackson temporary guardianship of the children, who range in age from 7 to 12. He also gave her control over some of her son’s personal property that is now in the hands of an unnamed third party. But the judge did not immediately rule on her requests to take charge of the children’s and Jackson’s estates.
The swift legal moves come amid questions about whether Jackson had a valid will. If not, many potential claimants could emerge seeking a piece of his empire.
Jackson’s parents claimed in documents filed in Superior Court on Monday that there is no will. A person with knowledge of Jackson’s business matters, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the material, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday that there is a will.