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.
Meanwhile, Katherine Jackson, the mother of Michael Jackson, has her own fleet of attorneys.
New York attorney L. Londell McMillan, who has represented Michael Jackson and his family in the past, is spearheading Katherine Jackson's legal team, which includes Beverly Hills probate attorney Burt Levitch. Since McMillan is not licensed to practice in California, he called on local partners John Schreiber and Dean Hansell to handle litigation matters. Those could include custody questions.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted Katherine Jackson temporary custody of the singer's three children until July 13, when a hearing on whether Jackson's mother will retain custody is scheduled.
Century City litigator Eric George, whose client roster includes former power agent Michael Ovitz, is representing Jackson's former wife, Debbie Rowe, in the custody matter. McMillan is representing Katherine Jackson in the custody case.
In some cases, the singer's death led to scoops. TMZ famously broke the news first.
But Hollywood.TV Inc., a Beverly Hills media outlet that supplies video content to television stations and Web sites, captured the first video of Jackson being taken by ambulance from his Holmby Hills home to UCLA Medical Center.
Since then, founder Sheeraz Hasan, said he received thousands of requests for Jackson footage.
"We've been asked by every media outlet to supply them with anything Michael Jackson related family members, doctors or friends," Hasan said. "Our footage has been seen over by 1 billion people in the last 10 days."
He declined to disclose how much he's made from Jackson footage.
Other businesses did well after the singer's death, too. In the days leading up to Jackson's memorial service, hotel bookings increased by more than 40 percent and airline flights to Los Angeles were booked solid. The service generated at least $4 million for the city's economy, according to Jack Kyser, economist at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.
What's more, the large number of people turning to their televisions and computer screens for Jackson news resulted in an uptick in viewership for local stations and Web outlets. The memorial service alone drew 31.1 million viewers across 18 broadcast and cable networks tallied by Nielsen.
And Michaelmania isn't expected to end anytime soon.
Kyser said fans from other countries will likely continue making pilgrimages to Los Angeles to visit Staples Center the site of Jackson's memorial and his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They'll also stop here on the way to the Santa Ynez Valley to see Neverland.
LA Inc., the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, compiled a list of locations throughout Los Angeles related to the superstar, including the Grammy Museum which is displaying Jackson memorabilia the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Pantages Theatre.
"I think that part of L.A.'s identity is the celebrity factor and people come to Los Angeles seeking the famous people," said Robin McClain, a spokeswoman for LA Inc. "There will be a huge interest and curiosity about Michael Jackson's life in Los Angles in terms of contributions he made to entertainment industry and where those places are."
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