Jackson family moves to take charge of star’s affairs
Mother, 79, given custody of 3 children
LOS ANGELES - Michael Jackson’s family moved quickly yesterday to take control of his complicated personal and financial affairs, winning temporary custody of his three children and asking a judge to name his mother as administrator of his estate.
In documents filed in Superior Court, Jackson’s parents said they believe their 50-year-old son died without a valid will.
They also made it clear they believe they should take charge of both his debt-ridden but potentially lucrative financial empire and act as permanent caretakers of his three children.
Judge Mitchell Beckloff granted 79-year-old Katherine Jackson temporary guardianship of the children, who range in age from 7 to 12. He did not immediately rule on her requests to take charge of the children’s and Jackson’s estates.
Beckloff scheduled a hearing for July 6 and another for Aug. 3 to consider those issues and whether Katherine Jackson should be appointed the children’s permanent guardian.
L. Londell McMillan, the family’s attorney, said in a statement that the Jacksons are pleased with the results of their filings yesterday.
“Mrs. Jackson deserves custody, and the family should have the administration of the brilliance of Mr. Michael Jackson. Mrs. Jackson is a wonderful, loving, and strong woman with a special family many of us have admired for years. The personal and legal priorities are focused on first protecting the best interests of Mr. Michael Jackson’s children, his family, his memorial services and then preserving his creative and business legacy with the dignity and honor it deserves.’’
When Jackson died Thursday, he left a 12-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter by former wife Deborah Rowe, as well as a 7-year-old son born to a surrogate mother.
The Jackson family said the children - Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., (known as Prince Michael), Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, and Prince Michael II - are living at the Jackson family compound in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley.
“They have a long-established relationship with paternal grandmother and are comfortable in her care,’’ the family said in court documents.
Family patriarch Joe Jackson, 79, said at a news conference that the children were enjoying playing with other children - something they do not normally do.
The documents state that although Rowe is the mother of the two older children, her whereabouts are unknown. The document simply listed “none’’ for the mother of the youngest child, Prince Michael II.
Supporting Katherine Jackson in her petition bid to administer the estate was Jackson’s father, Joe Jackson.
The Jacksons say they have not heard from Rowe since their son’s death. Rowe’s attorney, Marta Almli, did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment yesterday. She previously said, “Ms. Rowe’s only thoughts at this time have been regarding the devastating loss Michael’s family has suffered.’’
Mark Lester, a former British child star who is godfather to Jackson’s children, said he believes they belong with Jackson’s mother.
“She is a very loving, kind, and gracious woman, and she had a very close relationship with Michael and a very good rapport with her grandchildren,’’ Lester said. “I know the kids are fine. They are deeply saddened by what’s happened, but they’re coping.’’
A will, which might spell out Jackson’s wishes for his children and estate, has not turned up.
Jackson’s father told reporters at the family compound that his son’s funeral was still in the planning stages.
“It will be some private, but not closed all the way down to the public,’’ he said.
He added that his son would not be buried at Neverland Ranch, the sprawling playground he built in the rolling hills of Santa Barbara County then abandoned after going into seclusion following his acquittal on child molestation charges in 2005.
Jackson’s father also used the news conference to plug a record company he said he is establishing with a business partner.
“We have a lot of good artists pitching to come out,’’ he said.
His son, who had not released a new recording or performed publicly in several years, was believed to be hundreds of millions of dollars in debt at the time of his death. However, his finances are complicated and could take years to unravel.
One of his most valuable assets is his recording catalog, which his father could rerelease through his new record company if the family gains control of his assets. There could also be recordings in Jackson’s estate that he never released.
There is also a financial bonanza to be had in the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalog, of which Jackson owned 50 percent. The 750,000-song catalog includes music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga, and the Jonas Brothers, and is estimated to be worth as much as $2 billion.