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Jackson’s mother denied control of estate

L.A. braces for memorial to king of pop

Police outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles kept a close eye on the crowds yesterday ahead of today's memorial service. Police outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles kept a close eye on the crowds yesterday ahead of today's memorial service. (Charlie Riedel/ Associated Press)
By Anthony McCartney
Associated Press / July 7, 2009
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LOS ANGELES - A judge said yesterday that Michael Jackson’s longtime attorney and a family friend should take over the pop singer’s estate for now, rejecting a request from Jackson’s mother to be put in charge or share control.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff backed lawyer John Branca and music executive John McClain, who had been designated in Jackson’s 2002 will as the people he wanted to administer his estate. Lawyers for the pop singer’s mother repeatedly objected to their appointment at yesterday’s court hearing.

“It’s our desire to do everything we can to carry out Michael Jackson’s wishes and to maximize the estate,’’ said Howard Weitzman, who spoke after the hearing on behalf of Branca. Weitzman issued a statement later calling the judge’s ruling “the correct decision.’’

The singer’s mother, Katherine, had applied to oversee her son’s estate, but that was before the 2002 will surfaced. Her lawyer, Burt Levitch, expressed concern about McClain and Branca’s financial leadership.

Jackson died June 25 deeply in debt. But a court filing estimates that his estate will be worth more than $500 million. His assets are destined for a private trust.

A public memorial has been scheduled for Jackson in downtown Los Angeles today. Dozens of police officers and a firetruck were parked outside Dodger Stadium yesterday, where ticket winners could pick up their coveted passes to the Staples Center ceremony.

More than 1.6 million people registered to win the free tickets - two per person - and only 8,750 names were chosen. Los Angeles officials are concerned about other fans clogging city streets.

Representatives for Jackson’s family released a list of participants yesterday that includes Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Kobe Bryant, Brooke Shields, Motown founder Berry Gordy, Lionel Richie, John Mayer, Usher, Jennifer Hudson, and Martin Luther King III and his sister Bernice.

One person who will not be at the memorial is Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s former wife and the mother of Jackson’s two oldest children. She had planned to attend, but backed out yesterday.

“The onslaught of media attention has made it clear her attendance would be an unnecessary distraction to an event that should focus exclusively on Michael’s legacy,’’ Marta Almli, a lawyer for Rowe, said in a statement. “Debbie will continue to celebrate Michael’s memory privately.’’

Lucky fans celebrated when they got an e-mail saying they had scored the hottest ticket in town. “Congratulations, your application was successful,’’ said the message sent to Deka Motanya, 27, of San Francisco.

She immediately Twittered: “OMG OMG OMG OMG i got tickets to the michael jackson memorial service!!!’’

Throughout yesterday, both eBay and Craigslist removed posts on their respective sites that attempted to sell tickets to the memorial service.

Jackson’s family had wanted Beckloff to delay the appointment of McClain and Branca as temporary administrators of the pop superstar’s estate, a person close to the Jacksons said.

The family wanted more time to look deeper into Michael Jackson’s affairs to see whether another will emerges, and to accommodate Jackson’s memorial service, said a person close to the family.

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