After days of television replays of Jackson’s hit songs and glowing tributes to his musical genius, attention has turned to the murkier side of the Thriller singer.
Celebrity website TMZ.com, which broke the news of Jackson’s death, reported the entertainer was not the biological father of his three children and that his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, was not the genetic mother of the eldest two.
Jackson’s will left his fortune to his three children and his mother.
When the will was written, the star’s estate was estimated to be worth more than €350 million.
It names Jackson’s mother, Katherine, as the guardian of his three children, placing his assets in a trust, and it names his long-time attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain as executors.
The King of Pop is reported to have cut out his father, Joe, who Jackson had accused of beating him as a child.
Several media reports said Jackson’s body would be driven to his Neverland Valley Ranch near Santa Barbara in Central California ahead of a public viewing this weekend.
One story in the Sun said Jackson’s body would first be driven through Los Angeles in a glass-sided horse-drawn carriage, complete with a matching glass coffin.
None of the reports could be verified with the many managers, lawyers and spokespeople who claimed to speak on behalf of Jackson or his family.
Several California public safety officials said they had not yet heard from the Jackson family, although they confirmed they were meeting to discuss a possible service at Neverland.
Tom Barrack, chief executive of Colony Capital LLC, the private equity firm that co-owns Neverland, issued an open letter to the people of Santa Barbara County asking them to prepare for “a global drama of epic proportion”.
Yet the theme park-style ranch, a four-hour drive northwest of Los Angeles, was the site of the infamous sleepovers Jackson held with young boys that led to unproven charges of child molestation in 1993 and a 2005 trial.
Now shuttered and emptied, Neverland was abandoned by Jackson after the trial.
Despite his charisma on stage, Jackson was largely reclusive off stage.
He relied on an ever-changing series of aides to fend off curiosity about his two brief marriages and changing physical appearance – all of which led the British media to dub him “Wacko Jacko” some 15 years ago.
“This is a story that’s going to last and develop and get bigger in the next year,” TMZ managing editor Harvey Levin said. “You’re going to see quite the show here.”
Celebrity magazine Us Weekly said the biological father of Michael Jnr, 12, and Paris, 11, was Jackson’s Beverly Hills dermatologist, Dr Arnold Klein, for whom Rowe once worked.
The identity of the surrogate mother of Prince Michael II, 7, has never been known.
Klein’s attorney issued a statement neither confirming or denying the report, but Rowe’s attorney told entertainment news outlet E! News that her client is definitely the mother.
Jackson’s mother Katherine has temporary guardianship of the children and control of his estate until a July 6 hearing.
Elsewhere, Jackson family lawyer Brian Oxman told Life & Style Weekly the singer “feared somebody wanted to kill him”.
“He was even concerned people would kill him to somehow try to take control of the Beatles’ back catalogue,” Oxman told the magazine, referring to Jackson’s lucrative joint venture.
The cause of Jackson’s death has not yet been determined. Results of toxicology tests are expected in about 4-6 weeks.