The cottage industry sprouted by Michael Jackson's death has extended beyond street vendors hawking T-shirts. A number of local professionals are cashing in.
After the pop icon's sudden death June 25, an army of attorneys, public relations specialists, industry executives and informal advisers appeared in court, on television and other media outlets serving as liaisons for Jackson's estate or his family.
At least a dozen attorneys, the majority from Los Angeles, are involved in the matter, including longtime Jackson attorney and friend John Branca, who was named temporary administrator of the estate alongside John McClain, founder of Interscope Records. Meanwhile, L.A. crisis management specialist Mike Sitrick and New York publicist Ken Sunshine are working with lawyers representing Jackson's estate and his family, respectively.
In some cases, the gatekeepers get big paydays.
"There are substantial fees for the lawyers, the trustees, and the executors in this case. Very substantial fees, I would think, because there is a lot of work here," said Todd Reinstein, a partner at Beverly Hills boutique law firm Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP. Reinstein has worked on the estates of high-profile individuals, including William Randolph Hearst's mistress Marion Davies.
Suddenly, many men in suits have stepped into the spotlight as legal representatives and spin doctors on all things Michael.
According to industry experts, these white-collar professionals can charge in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for their services.
Top-flight attorneys like those representing Jackson's estate and his family charge anywhere from $600 to $900 an hour. In some cases, the hourly rates can come on top of large retainer fees.
An executor of an estate also receives fees based on a fixed sliding percentage of the estate's assets. For estates valued at $25 million or above which is clearly Jackson's case the executor would receive about $863,000 in fees. A judge can award higher fees for bigger estates at his or her discretion.
That means the temporary administrators of the estate, Branca and McClain, could be in for a sizable payday. A judge will rule on their role in early August.
Jackson's assets have an estimated worth of $600 million. After debts, it's estimated at $200 million and growing daily with music sales. It's the distribution of this money that has drawn a cadre of attorneys.
High-profile entertainment litigator Howard Weitzman is representing Branca and McClain. Weitzman, whose past clients have included O.J. Simpson, John DeLorean, Courtney Love and Paris Hilton, is expected to handle any legal issues that arise with the estate. Prominent L.A. probate attorneys Paul Hoffman, Jeryll Cohen and Alan Watenmaker are advising on trust and estate issues, while top Atlanta music attorney Joel Katz and L.A. entertainment litigator Vincent Chieffo are helping navigate the nuisances of the entertainment industry.
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