Michael Jackson’s estate sued the singer’s former manager on Friday, claiming he lined his own pockets by persuading the pop superstar to sign unconscionable contracts in the final year of his life.
The lawsuit against Tohme R. Tohme came after more than a year of wrangling between Jackson’s estate and the former adviser who has claimed he is owed 15 percent of the more than $310 million collected by the estate since the singer’s death.
The lawsuit seeks the return of Jackson’s property and financial records along with damages and a ruling that Tohme is not entitled to any money from the estate.
The contracts involved a refinancing of Jackson’s debt related to Neverland Ranch and a producer’s fee that Tohme negotiated for himself for Jackson’s series of planned comeback concerts in London.
“This lawsuit is necessary to finally put a stop to abuse of fiduciary obligations owed to Jackson and seeks to unwind the self-serving and unconscionable agreements (Tohme) encouraged Jackson to enter into” and to compensate the estate for failing to return Jackson’s property, the complaint states.
Tohme’s attorney Paul Malingagio did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Friday.
Tohme served as Jackson’s manager from January 2008 until March 2009.
Estate attorney Howard Weitzman wrote in a statement that he expects Jackson’s former manager to file his own lawsuit to try to gain money from the estate.
“We believe the facts will show that Mr. Tohme’s claims are meritless and that Mr. Tohme engaged in wrongdoing with respect to Michael Jackson starting early in their relationship,” Weitzman wrote.
The lawsuit states that Tohme forced Jackson to pay him a finder’s fee for introducing the singer to a group that saved Neverland Ranch from foreclosure. That deal earned Tohme more than $2.4 million and was just one of several deals he was involved in that the estate claims improperly benefited the adviser.
Tohme also negotiated a producer’s fee of $100,000 a month for the “This Is It” shows planned in London, although Jackson died before the concert series began.
The legal action also alleges that Tohme improperly signed away the rights to artwork created by Jackson.
Tohme told The Associated Press in July 2009 that he had turned over more than $5 million to Jackson’s estate that the singer had stockpiled to purchase a “dream home” in Las Vegas.
In September 2010, Tohme sought more than $2.3 million from the estate and claimed he was owed 15 percent of revenue from the film “This Is It,” which used footage from Jackson’s final rehearsals.
Tohme was credited as Jackson’s personal adviser in the film.