First part: "How Michael Jackson Nearly Lost His Prized Music Catalog":
1. Author Roberts begins the piece by stating that Branca is overseeing the estate as he oversaw Michael Jackson's business affairs during his lifetime. Similarly, the author states that Branca is negotiating the ATV debt as he did while Jackson was alive.
Fiction. The estate status report, filed in October, 2010, pdf page 22 states that "the special administrators have recently completely successful negotiations with UBS to refinance the loan secured by the Estate's interest in Sony/ATV as well as extensive negotiations with Sony to complete the refinance negotiation....The negotiations resulted in an amended agreement with Sony to the great benefit the Estate and a new loan at a substantially lower interest rate for the Estate, which is locked in for the period of the loan." Therefore, the information from the author should have been updated to include the negotiations of the refinancing of Jackson's half of the ATV.
2. Roberts provides a somewhat obscure history of the relationship between Branca and Jackson, stating that it was "punctuated by moments of brilliance, such as when the lawyer orchestrated Jackson's purchase of the Beatles' song catalog, ATV music, perhaps the most important deal in Jackson's life.
Fact. John Branca, as we all know, did help Jackson acquire the ATV catalog.
3. Roberts then moves on to question Branca's loyalty to Jackson, stating that "...some might conclude that Branca is no hero at all. A deal in 2003 to sell Jackson's interests in the Beatles' and MIJAC catalogues to the investment bank Goldman Sachs will lead some to question Branca's role in Jackson's business affairs.
Fact. Many fans are suspicious of John Branca and whether he had Michael Jackson's best interests at heart.
4. Roberts then goes on to reiterate that the ATV loan needs to be renegotiated (see #1) and then erroneously places a comparison image of Jackson's signature; one from a letter firing Branca in Februrary 2003, and another that Jackson "authorized trustees to borrow $35 million from Bank of America".
I have a two part question for author Roberts. Up until this point, Roberts is writing about John Branca. In the midst of this subject, Robert interjects two signatures by Michael Jackson, that appear to be dissimilar. What does this have to do with John Branca? The image, which is later shown in full here, is part of the Bank of America loan which was originally $35 million but later was renegotiated for $70 million. Branca's name is mentioned once in this document, but the signatures required were that of Malnik and McClain, not Branca.
Jury's out on this one, I'm not a lawyer. (However, this document does prove that Jackson's firing letter to Branca, dated February of 2003, DID NOT TERMINATE THE SERVICES OF BRANCA FOR LONG. This document is dated in August of 2003, so Branca was in fact, employed by Jackson in late 2003.)
5. Roberts states that there was a deal between Michael Jackson and Goldman Sachs to get rid of Jackson's crushing $270 million debt. According to Roberts, "As the proposal evolved during more than a year, its fundamental flaw -- that Jackson all but surely would forfeit his songs -- remained clearly obvious to Branca. More than anyone, Branca knew that owning the songs was one of his client Jackson’s great passions and that the singer worried intensely about them slipping from his grasp....In a July 2003 missive on his firm’s letterhead, Branca essentially put Goldman on notice that it ultimately must assure certain of Jackson’s ongoing obligations -- “direct payment of this firm’s 5%” -- under certain circumstances if the proposal progressed."
Ultimately, the deal fell through. Roberts states that "as for Branca, by the time the deal collapsed, Branca was fired." However, later in the article, Roberts publishes the letter in its entirety here, and Branca CLEARLY outlines what should be expected in order to protect Michael Jackson's assets even though he is not working for Jackson any more.
Fantasy. My personal opinion is that the author baits the reader with innuendo and statements from Al Malnik, in order to create, once again, controversy within the Jackson fan base. Anyone who reads that letter will see that Branca had Jackson's best interests at heart, despite the fact that he had been fired. Roberts then states that "in case Michael wanted out of the venture, 'an exit strategy needs to devised for [him] to receive fair market value.' Skeptical of Goldman’s power grab, he insisted that 'Michael should have some control over the management and operation of the venture.'" This statement is an example of the contradictory
assertions on the part of author Roberts.
Third part: "The Secret Probe that Got Branca Fired"
6. Ahhhhh...the Interfor report. Roberts states that "Interfor’s investigation, 'found a tight business relationship between Branca and Tommy Mottola,' then-CEO of Sony Music, where Jackson was an artist, according to an excerpt from the firm’s final report. The excerpt added: 'Interfor has begun investigating the flow of funds from Jackson through Mottola and Branca into offshore accounts in the Carribean [sic].'" However, Roberts states that "The investigation, which apparently began in late 2002, provided no credible evidence to corroborate those and other assertions. And the probe may have been little more than part of an elaborate smear campaign intended to influence the beleaguered Jackson to fire Branca."
Fact! Branca was exonerated in the court of Jackson's opinion. Branca DID NOT put money into offshore accounts, period. At least Roberts got that right.
All in all, Roberts' article can be viewed in two ways. My personal opinion is that this article has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt what many fans have been saying since Michael died; that Branca was, and still is looking out for Michael's interests and the interests of MJ3.