The head of the company promoting Michael Jackson’s ill-fated comeback concerts told jurors he never consulted a mental health professional to help the singer despite being urged to do so by two show bosses.
AEG Live chief executive Randy Phillips told the Los Angeles court about emails he sent and received in the week before Jackson’s death in 2009, including a production manager’s characterisation that the entertainer’s condition was “deteriorating”.
Mr Phillips is giving evidence in a negligent hiring case filed by Jackson’s mother against AEG Live, claiming the company failed to properly investigate the doctor convicted of giving her 50-year-old son a lethal dose of an anaesthetic.
Her lawyers also say Mr Phillips and AEG Live executives ignored signs of Jackson’s poor health and pushed the entertainer to perform.
Emails displayed to jurors hearing the case show that Mr Phillips told Jackson’s business manager he believed the singer might have breached his contract by missing rehearsals.
The email was sent on June 20, 2009, five days before the singer died from an overdose of propofol.
“And I thought it couldn’t get worse,” the business manager, Michael Kane, responded.
Mr Phillips said Mr Kane had been seeking a $1m advance for Jackson against the earnings of his 'This Is It' shows at London’s O2 arena.
Mr Phillips’ email to Mr Kane came hours after the director Kenny Ortega and production manager John Hougdahl, emailed Mr Phillips telling them that Jackson was in such a poor emotional state that he could not rehearse that night and had to be sent home.
“I have watched him deteriorate in front of my eyes over the last 8 weeks,” Mr Hougdahl wrote. “He was able to do multiple 360 spins back in April. He’d fall on his ass if he tried it now.”
According to Mr Hougdahl, Jackson said earlier that night after watching a pyrotechnics demonstration: “You aren’t going to kill the artist, are you?”
In a later email, Mr Hougdahl told Mr Phillips he believed Jackson needed a mental examination.
“My layman’s degree tells me he needs a shrink to get him mentally prepared to get him prepared to get on stage,” he wrote.
Mr Ortega also wrote to Phillips hours later, urging that Jackson get some psychological help.
Earlier that night, Jackson had been “trembling, rambling and obsessive”, according to Mr Ortega, who wrote to Mr Phillips that the singer seemed unable to rehearse due to “real emotional stuff”.
Mr Phillips has yet to speak about a meeting he had with Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray.
Jackson died before signing Murray’s $150,000-a-month contract to accompany him for 50 shows planned at the O2.
AEG denies it hired Murray and several of its executives have said the former doctor’s fee would have been deducted from Jackson’s earnings for the 'This Is It' shows.
Mr Phillips is the highest-ranking AEG Live executive to testify in the trial, which has concluded its sixth week. He denied yesterday that he ever threatened Jackson over missed rehearsals.
“We would have never dealt with Michael that way,” he said.
He also rejected the idea that he was responsible for Jackson’s health.
“I’m not responsible for his medical needs,” Mr Phillips said. “We’re promoters – that’s what we do.”