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Estate litigation: Michael Jackson estate is suing HBO

A two-part series recently aired on Home Box Office that has upset the Michael Jackson estate. The music icon’s drug-overdose death rocked the world in 2009. Some time later, the estate sold its stake in EMI Music Publishing to Sony, which generated $400 million to the estate in 2018. The recent subscription channel series has prompted estate litigation, with Jackson’s estate filing a lawsuit against HBO.

In its claim, the Jackson estate states that by airing the series “Leaving Neverland,” HBO violated a non-disparagement clause dating back to 1992. Leaving Neverland chronicles sexual assault allegations against Jackson, primarily focusing on two alleged victims, Wade Robson and James Safechuck. The men agreed to be interviewed for the series to share explicit details of alleged attacks against them by the now-deceased music legend.

Jackson’s estate believes HBO’s resurfacing of reputation-damaging stories regarding cases that were dismissed in court and criminal charges for which Jackson was acquitted will cause irreparable economic damage to the estate. Analysts say they believe Jackson’s music is so popular nothing could make his fans stop listening to it. However, corporate sponsors may steer clear of the estate down the line, which would be financially damaging.

A Michael Jackson musical that was scheduled to air in 2019 has been postponed, perhaps an example of sponsor hesitation. Estate litigation where hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake is typically complex and highly challenging. While most Illinois estates may not be worth this kind of money, many people still run into legal problems after estate owners die. Most people facing such circumstances turn to experienced estate law attorneys for guidance and support before heading to court.

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