Jackson Items on the Auction Block – MiniBullet #42
MAY 28 2007 – Yet another person other than Michael Jackson is preparing to make money off of the superstar's fame and legacy. Universal Express (UE) is executing plans in preparation to auction off memorabilia possibly worth millions of dollars.
According to previous reports, it appears most of the items purchased by UE are not possessions belonging to Michael Jackson but rather other members of the Jackson family. However, there seemed to have been a significant enough amount to warrant the superstar to sue UE after allegations that the materials belonging to Michael and Janet were illegally put on the market in the first place by Henry Vacarro.
This began when other members of the Jackson family (excluding Michael and Janet) were party to a bankruptcy proceeding over a storage unit years ago which landed Vacarro the rights to non-Michael and non-Janet property.
Reportedly, the judge in that bankruptcy proceeding issued an order stating any materials in the storage unit belonging to 3rd parties (i.e. Michael and Janet) were NOT to be sold by Vacarro.
Vacarro sold it anyway and reportedly raked in $5 million from the sale. Earlier this month, UE settled a lawsuit brought against them by Michael Jackson. The terms of the settlement remain undisclosed and a select number of charities will receive a small portion of the proceeds.
Before and after the settlement agreement, there have been a few arrogant proclamations in the press by CEO Richard Altomare about everything from the value of the collection to the reason why Jackson settled the lawsuit.
One such proclamation is that Jackson settled the suit because he had no legal claim to the material. Altomare is quoted in a May 27 2007 Associated Press article as saying, "Despite his emotional attachment he had to accept he didn't have it" (see Unpacking begins for what's being called largest auction of Jackson family memorabilia ever).
Partially because of Altomare's arrogant bluster, I personally won't support or endorse this auction because the whole situation stinks to high heaven.
It stinks how items belonging to Michael Jackson were seemingly sold without his knowledge or permission.
To add insult to injury, it stinks how UE has behaved via press releases and public comments about the materials as well. Without the fame generated by the Jacksons and later the sustained and gigantic superstar status of Michael Jackson, those items would be worthless.
I'm not sure if Altomare recognizes that fact. It certainly doesn't show in his public statements.
Though Michael Jackson and his attorneys may have come to a deal about the issue, that doesn't mean thousands of fans who may be conflicted about this auction or future auctions will necessarily run to bid on any of the material.
On the other hand, there has been some random talk among a few Jackson fan communities about it being nice if someone would buy up all of the Michael Jackson items and simply give them back to the superstar. Since when has anyone ever been that 'nice' and altruistic to Michael Jackson without wanting something in return? But I digress.
As reported previously, UE has seen it's share of legal action. Earlier this year a New York Federal District Court judge ordered the company to pay over $25M after violating securities trading laws and issuing misleading press releases inflating the value of those securities.
The CEO of UE, Richard Altomare, was ordered to pay $3.1M and Chris Gunderson was ordered to pay $794,711. UE is currently appealing the verdict (see Damages against Universal Express, officers total $25.7 million).
With the Jackson auction scheduled to happen in the few days, it illustrates AGAIN for all of us how someone else has found another 'legal' way to make money off of Michael Jackson's legacy whether he approves of it or not.