Promoter Suing Michael Jackson For $21 Million

Longtime associate Marcel Avram reportedly accuses singer of failing to follow through with two shows.

Michael Jackson's longtime concert promoter reportedly is suing the R&B/pop superstar for more than $21 million, accusing Jackson of reneging on a deal to perform two New Year's Eve 1999 shows.

Marcel Avram, who has promoted Jackson's solo shows since 1972, alleges that he paid the singer $1 million and spent $11.2 million in production costs to set up the two concerts, which were to occur in Sydney, Australia, and in Honolulu on Dec. 31, 1999, according to Reuters. He was to have played Sydney and then traveled by Concorde to his show in Honolulu.

The suit, filed Friday in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, seeks damages of $21.2 million, plus interest.

A statement issued by Avram's Mama Concerts & Rau firm in Munich, Germany, said that Jackson, whose hits include "Billie Jean" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" (RealAudio excerpt), signed a deal to perform four concerts, including the New Year's shows. He played two of the concerts last year, one in Seoul, Korea, on June 25, and one in Munich on June 27. The deal was based on the prediction that Jackson would earn $15 million from the shows.

The Seoul concert was a benefit called "Michael Jackson & Friends," and it featured appearances by R&B diva Mariah Carey and former Beatle Ringo Starr. Avram's suit alleges that Jackson refused to lower his fee for the show, which raised money for the Red Cross, UNICEF and other charities.

"Jackson exceeded the cost of all the other performers by at least 10 times," the lawsuit alleged, as quoted by Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. "The profits foreseen from the benefit concerts shrank more and more under Michael Jackson's bombastic spending."

Avram hoped to earn the money back on the New Year's Eve shows, Reuters said, but Jackson pulled out of the concerts in October, saying he was too busy recording his next album, which will be his first full-length collection of material since 1992's Dangerous. Producer Rodney Jerkins has been working with Jackson on the album for more than two years. Jerkins has predicted that the disc would be released by year's end.

Avram was jailed in Germany in December 1997 for 12 counts of tax evasion, totaling around 5 million deutsche marks (about $2.4 million).

(Staff Writer Brian Hiatt contributed to this report.)