In this part, we will look closer to some people like Tohme Tohme and Thomas Barrack. But let us repeat some important dates in 2008 (MJ’s timeline 2008):
- October 20:
Michael & the kids leave their Las Vegas home and check in the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles.
Michael has a meeting at the Bel Air Hotel with Dr Tohme & Randy Phillips to discuss a new tour with AEG.
- October 31:
Michael meets with Dr Tohme & Randy Phillips at the Bel Air Hotel to talk about the AEG deal.
Grace & the kids are also present.
- November 11:
Michael has given up title to his Neverland ranch, transferring the deed to a company he partly controls. The Star filed a grant deed on the ranch that makes the new owner an entity called the Sycamore Valley Ranch Co. LLC, a joint venture between Jackson and an affiliate of Colony Capital LLC, Colony Capital is a Los Angeles-based real estate investment company run by billionaire Tom Barrack. It owns several properties in Las Vegas, including the Las Vegas Hilton.
Tom Barrack & Dr Tohme Tohme convince Michael to accept a concert deal and they contact Randy Phillips from AEG Live in order to start negotiations.
Before Michael’s passing, Fox news reporter, Roger Friedman had a talk with Tohme and also with Barrack. He published these conversations on March 16, 2009 http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,509076,00.html
We hear from Barrack’s mouth how he likes Tohme, we learn that they were (and probably are) business partners and good friends too. We also learn about Julien’s Auction House and again about AEG Live.
Jackson’s Mystery Manager Revealed
For about a year, since right before the chaos involving his Neverland Ranch possibly being sold at auction, Michael Jackson has had a mysterious new manager.
The man known as Tohme (pronounced toe-may) called himself a doctor. Different sources said he referred to himself either as an orthopedist or orthopedic surgeon. But there was a discrepancy: who was this man, the latest in a long line of managers who seemed to Svengali the pop star?
Yesterday, after many efforts, I finally pinned the 59-year-old Tohme down. A little. He conceded that he is not a licensed physician. “Not at this time,” he said. He refused, after repeated attempts, to say what kind of doctor he might have been at any time. His associates declined as well.
“If you want to talk about Michael Jackson, fine,” he said. “The story isn’t about me.”
But the story is very much about Tohme, who has not only taken over Jackson’s life but has a certain conflict of interest: he acts as a consultant to Colony Capital LLC, the company now partnered with Jackson in ownership of Neverland. Colony bought Fortress Investment’s $23.5 million note on the ranch last year.
More recently, they changed the name of the property to Sycamore Valley Ranch and became partners in the deed with Jackson. A small fortune changed hands, giving Jackson a much needed cash infusion of several million dollars.
But the pop singer always needs more money — he’s like a vampire when it comes to funds (sic). So Tohme restarted talks with AEG Live begun in 2007 about Jackson performing at the O2 Arena in London. Now a staggering 35 dates have been set beginning July 8th. Another 15 are likely. Jackson hasn’t performed live in a full show since September 10, 2001.
Adding to this, Tohme is also responsible for the coming auction of Jackson’s personal memorabilia. He set up the auction with Julien’s Auction House last fall. Contracts were signed. Now Jackson is suing Julien’s, saying he didn’t know what was going on. Julien has catalogs printed, and is going forward. So far, Jackson’s attorney has not filed for a court order to stop the auction.
Sources around Jackson don’t have a high opinion of Tohme. They worry that he’s just the latest person who’s come into Jackson’s life with a personal agenda.
But Thomas Barrack, head of Colony Capital, says Tohme’s a “great guy,” someone’s he known a long time “in the business world, around L.A.” When I asked him how Tohme knew Jackson, Barrack answered: “You’ll have to ask him.” He did say it was Tohme who introduced him to Jackson.
Tohme is fuzzy on this point. “I knew him a long time,” he said of Jackson. At first he said he knew Jackson’s family, then he backtracked and said his relationship was with Michael. We never really figured that one out.
“I love Michael,” Tohme said. “I want what’s best for him. When the problems with Neverland came, I was approached to see if I could help. I knew him for twenty to thirty years.”
Tohme told me he set up the AEG Live deal, even though he was clearly not around in 2007 when I first reported the story. I asked him if he set up the auction. “I did not set up the auction, the auction is not going through!” This is in direct contrast to my conversation with auctioneer Darrell Julien last winter, who sang Tohme’s praises as the pair worked to put it all together.
“We had a certain period of time to empty Neverland last year,” Tohme said. “I was looking for a place for storage, a place to dump a lot of stuff like cars. I called Julien’s and asked if they could do it, come pick it up.” He says an auction could only go through with Jackson’s approval.
Last week, Darrell Julien told this column: “Michael has plenty of storage facilities. He wouldn’t have called me for storage.” True enough: Jackson at different times has had airport hangers at Santa Monica airport filled with his belongings. He’s also had warehouses closer to home near Neverland.
So what about Tohme Tohme, who’s not a doctor? There were a lot of questions I couldn’t ask him because he kept yelling, and refused to answer. I never got to ask him about a 1996 bankruptcy filing on record in the state of California. In the court filing, vs. Marathon National Bank, he listed himself as “Tohme Tohme, Doctor.”
A search of the Lexis Nexis database shows no mention of “Tohme Tohme,” doctor or otherwise, prior to December 22, 2008 when he issued a statement about Jackson’s health.
He was charming in our conversation. He said, “If you play it right, you will be the first one to know everything about Michael Jackson.” I said, thanks, I already was. He said that Michael is in great shape and could easily do 50 shows. “He could do a hundred.”
Some weeks ago, The Estate filed a lawsuit against Tohme Tohme. There were several reactions to that. Roger Friedman’s article was one of them (published on 27/7/2012):
Michael Jackson Executors (Finally) Sue Singer’s Final Manager
Michael Jackson‘s estate has finally filed a lawsuit against Tohme Tohme, who used to call himself “Doctor.” Tohme was Michael Jackson’s penultimate manager–meaning he was replaced just before Jackson’s death by Jackson’s longtime manager and friend, Frank DiLeo.
But Tohme, the estate says in a complaint filed by attorney Howard Weitzman, ran amok during his short term between January 2008 and March 2009.
It was Tohme, working for Thomas Barrack‘s Colony Capital, who pulled off the sale of Neverland to Colony. But according to the complaint, Jackson never understood that Tohme was also going to receive a finder’s fee for doing work for his own employer. Jackson had no lawyer representing him in his many signed agreements with Tohme, and so didn’t understand that when Colony came up with $24 million to bail out Neverland, Tohme would get $2.4 million.
Tohme, the complaint further reads, got Jackson to sign an agreement paying him $35,000 a month. He was also to receive 15% of all gross compensation Jackson received for anything he did in the entertainment field. Jackson signed not one but two Power of Attorney documents giving Tohme “extraordinary” powers. He also gave himself a $100,000 per month producers fee for the run of Jackson’s London concert dates–from July 2009 through at least March 2010. All of this Jackson signed without a lawyer, and despite numerous stories (many written by yours truly) about Tohme’s many assertions about his credentials being false.
It was during Tohme’s regime, for example, that the contents of Neverland were emptied and consigned to an auction house in Beverly Hills. The auction didn’t proceed when Jackson finally got a grip, and a lawyer, stopped the auction. Tohme then took back the contents and warehoused them. When Jackson died, the estate had to negotiate with him to get back the property. Out of luck was Julien’s Auction House, which published a now collectible catalog of everything that had been in Neverland.
“Tohme took possession and control of money and property that belonged to Jackson. Tomhe did not return to Jackson and refuses to deliver to the executors all of the property and cash belonging to Jackson that Tohme took possession and control of.”
On a side note, Tohme used to claim he was a doctor from Lebanon. But he could never prove to me that he was a doctor and when I questioned him about it in 2008, he told me wasn’t practicing. He did say he was Ambassador at Large to Senegal, but their Embassies denied it.
A call to Tohme’s attorney has not yet been returned.
Friedman is right. Here it is the statement released by the Senegal’s embassy:
Sénégal: Passeport diplomatique sénégalais du « médecin » de Michael Jackson – Le ministère des affaires étrangères dément « formellement »
PAR M. CISS, 29 JUIN 2009
Le ministère des Affaires étrangères du Sénégal a apporté un démenti dans un communiqué de presse à une information relayée par un journal en ligne selon laquelle le « médecin » de Michael Jackson, qui s’appellerait Tohme R. Tohme et qui serait en fuite, détenait un passeport diplomatique sénégalais. Cette information laisse croire que Dr Tohme se serait même fait passer pour un ambassadeur du Sénégal.
Le ministère des Affaires étrangères du Sénégal a alors procédé à toutes les vérifications d’usage et a démenti « formellement » l’information, nous apprend le communiqué en date du 27 juin dernier. « Monsieur Tohme R. Tohme ne détient aucun passeport officiel sénégalais, ni diplomatique ni de service. Il est inconnu du fichier des détenteurs de passeports officiels sénégalais qui est un fichier informatisé avec des archives manuelles sécurisées », fait savoir le communiqué de presse.
http://fr.allafrica.com/stories/200906290986.htmlIn short, the Senegal’s embassy denies everything Tohme had said. The Embassy does not wish to hear more about him.
Let us now look into Thomas Barrack’s world. According to The Forbes 400 richest people in USA 2012, Thomas Barrack is number 375 with a net worth $1.1B. No doubt that Thomas Barrack has several friends among these powerful people of the world. One of them is Philip Anschutz at nr. 39 and with a net worth $7B.
But Barrack wasn’t always rich:
The grandson of Lebanese immigrants, Barrack grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs in a tiny stucco house, where his mother hung out the wash. His father worked 18 hours a day at the family grocery store. After school Tom stamped prices on cans and manned the register.
He went on to the University of Southern California, where he was a star on a national-championship rugby team, worked on campaigns for California Republicans, and in 1972 got a law degree. His first job was at the firm of Herb Kalmbach, President Nixon’s personal attorney, but he didn’t stay long.
One of the firm’s biggest clients, construction giant Fluor Corp., needed a volunteer to live in Saudi Arabia for a few months to negotiate a contract. Saudi Arabia was hardly a posh posting, but with oil dollars rolling in, it was deal central. Barrack leaped at the chance.
He stayed in Saudi Arabia and worked for Princes and linked them to Americans investors and even to other countries. He did not make a lot of money but connections. His biggest payday came in the late 1980s:
He’d arranged for Bass (an investor for whom Barrack worked) to buy a portfolio of bad loans from American Savings, a failing thrift that the federal government had taken over. Bass paid about $1 billion, less than half the face value of the construction notes, mortgages on office buildings, and other troubled credits.
Bass and Barrack were able to turn around and sell many of the loans back to the original borrowers at 70 cents or 80 cents on the dollar, earning about $400 million. It was only the beginning of the S&L bust, and Barrack knew the opportunities would be huge.
“He kept saying to me, ‘The government will have to take over all these loans,'” recalls Bill Rogers, then one of Bass’s partners. “He said we needed to be raising money to get ready for an incredible buying opportunity.”
Barrack formed Colony Capital, the first vulture fund for S&L debt, in 1990. With help from Rogers, who joined Colony, he pulled in money from Bass and GE Capital and later raised more from insurance king Eli Broad, Merrill Lynch, and the Koo family, the Rockefellers of Taiwan.
During the coming years, Barrack and Colony Capital bought troubled high-quality properties cheap, rebuilt them and sold them 10 times more expensive. Soon, Barrack went outside of the US and bought and sold many places in Europe and Asia. To cut a long story short, Barrack is a real estate who loves distressed high-quality properties. Happiness at the misfortune of the others! What all of this have to do with Michael? Well, Thomas Barrack was Michael’s neighbor when MJ lived at Neverland!
Besides that, Barrack looked / looks forward to invest in other stuff. Why? As we know, the real estate business is no longer so profitable:
Barrack says he no longer believes real-estate investing can deliver more than “singles and doubles.” In fact, it has yielded some strikeouts: A $4 billion Colony fund raised in 2007 showed 60 percent losses as of the first quarter of 2010. http://nymag.com/news/business/69782/
One of his favorite branches is films/music/artistry. His closest friend and business partner is the ex TV actor Rob Lowe. His dream is probably to become a close partner with AEG / AEG Live and work with the artists. He was probably one of the many people who watched Jackson when the star was back in the United States.
As a rule, Barrack seeks distressed and troubled properties. When he heard about Neverland and its troubles, he saw this opportunity as a ticket to where he wanted to go: getting inside the music business that was and still is Jackson’s domain; also the “union” with Jackson would help him to get closer to people like AEG and AEG Live who were after the star and hoped to sign concert contract with him.
So Barrack did not only invest in Neverland by buying its loan from the bank but he also invested on JACKSON as a troubled and distressed” intellectual property”.
You can find here several quotes from 2 relevant articles:
To this financier, Michael Jackson is an undervalued asset
Others have tried to revive the onetime pop star’s performing career. Tom Barrack is convinced he’s the ‘caretaker’ to do it.
May 31, 2009|
Chris Lee and Harriet Ryan
Tom Barrack, a Westside financier who made billions buying and selling distressed properties, flew to Las Vegas in March 2008 to check out a troubled asset. But his target was not a struggling hotel chain or failed bank.
It was Michael Jackson.
In Jackson, Barrack saw the sort of undervalued asset his private equity firm, Colony Capital, had succeeded with in the past. He wrote a check to save the ranch and placed a call to a friend, conservative business magnate Philip Anschutz, whose holdings include the concert production firm AEG Live.“You are talking about a guy who could make $500 million a year if he puts his mind to it,” Barrack said recently. “There are very few individual artists who are multibillion-dollar businesses. And he is one.”
Tohme reached out to Barrack, who said he was initially reluctant to get involved because Jackson had already sought advice from Barrack’s friend and fellow billionaire Ron Burkle.
“I said, ‘My god, if Ron can’t figure it out, I can’t figure it out,’ ” Barrack said.
But he was drawn to the deal. He owns a ranch five miles from Neverland, and his sons were among local children Jackson invited over for field days at the ranch.
“I sat down with him and said, ‘Look . . . we can buy the note and restructure your financial empire,’ ” Barrack said. But, he told him, “what you need is a new caretaker. A new podium. A new engine.”
Jackson and Barrack reached an agreement within seven days. Colony paid $22.5 million and Neverland averted foreclosure.
Barrack said his position outside the music industry seemed to endear him to Jackson. “He looks at me like ‘the suit.’ I have credibility because I don’t live in that world. I’m not interested in hanging around him. I’m not interested in girls. I’m not interested in boys. I’m not interested in drugs,” Barrack said.
After buying Neverland, Barrack called his friend Anschutz. Barrack said the prospect of helping Jackson, given his recent criminal case (sic), gave Anschutz, a devout Christian, pause. (Anschutz declined to be interviewed.)
Phillips had his eye on Jackson for some time. In 2007, Phillips had approached the singer with a deal for a comeback, but Jackson, who was working with different advisors, turned him down. “He wasn’t ready,” Phillips recalled.
Barrack, the man who set Jackson’s comeback in motion, has seen his net worth drop with the financial crisis. Forbes estimated his wealth at $2.3 billion around the time he met Jackson, but he is now merely a multimillionaire. He said that the economic downturn makes Jackson more attractive as an investment because his value has been overlooked: In times like this, he said, “finding little pieces of information that others don’t have” is more important than ever.
His company isn’t exposed to any risk by working with Jackson. All the money Colony has put up is backed by the value of Neverland and related assets, he said. If Jackson regains firm financial footing, Barrack’s company could be a partner in future deals.
The concerts, Phillips acknowledged, are a do-or-die moment for Jackson. “If it doesn’t happen, it would be a major problem for him career-wise in a way that it hasn’t been in the past,” he said.
And the second article:
Monetizing the Celebrity Meltdown
Tom Barrack, a billionaire investor who made his fortune in real estate, has discovered a market in distressed celebrities. With Neverland Ranch and Miramax under his belt, he’s now on a shopping spree—and bringing along his buddy Rob Lowe.
By Benjamin Wallace
Published Nov 28, 2010/…/
Somewhat grudgingly, Barrack arrived at Jackson’s fifties stucco rental on Palomino Lane (in 2008). “Not one blade of grass,” Barrack says. “The house was old and musty.” The 1,000-plus-page Sony/ATV catalogue was on the table between them, and Barrack was quickly won over. “For sure, the guy is an absolute genius,” Barrack says. “He was remembering not just songs but every performance, every date, every script.”
Barrack had a relationship with the loan holder, Fortress, and was able to get an extension to give his Colony team time to crunch the numbers.
They concluded that the only way to make a deal work would be for Jackson to start generating new revenue, which meant performing old material.
Two days later, Barrack called Jackson. “I told him: ‘Where you are is an insolvable puzzle unless you’re willing to go back to work. If you’re willing to do that, then we can help, but if you’re not willing to do that, it’s just presiding over a funeral.’ ”
At first, Jackson demurred. “He really had a hard time with that, and he struggled for about three days. Finally, he calls back and says, ‘You’re right, I’ll do it.’ ”
Colony agreed to bail out Jackson; in return, the firm would take ownership of Neverland and arrange for AEG, the concert promoter owned by Barrack’s friend Phil Anschutz, to stage a comeback. An unforeseen complication arose when Barrack received a call from the King of Bahrain, whom he knew from Sardinia, where Barrack owns much of the Costa Smeralda; astonishingly, Jackson had apparently forgotten that while being hosted in Bahrain, he had signed over a number of recording and performance rights to the king’s son. Colony had to buy out that interest.
After Jackson’s death, Barrack said:
“What’s amazing,” Barrack says, “is he attained in death what he could never attain in life.”
By signing Barrack’s agreement – which no one has seen because it’s classified – Jackson did not probably understand that he signed his “slavery” contract. Sadly, he was already “in chains” when he had to deal with AEG / AEG Live.
Jackson thought by firing Tohme he would get rid of the man but probably the agreements he signed with Tohme gave the former so much power that it was not easy to simply fire him. Tohme was there to protect Barrack’s investment: Michael Jackson– and by doing this he got handsome rewards.
It appears that what happened in 2009 was the result of the events that occurred in 2008.
More about this in the coming blogs.