By The Last Tear (Lou)
This post is an introduction, a beginning of a study about Sony. The subject is heavy. New information has come up and more will probably do. We hope to continue our research and update our blogs.
Section 2 or Jackson and Sony or perhaps Jackson and Japan! As we know Japan loved and still loves Michael Jackson. During his career, MJ had business partnerships with the Japanese companies. For example, in 1982, MJ did several commercials for Suzuki.
Besides his huge fan base in this country that has always supported him, Jackson hoped to launch different projects in Japan; in 1998, when he was thinking about theme parks in different countries, he had an especial plan for Japan. The following paragraph is from the site The Silenced Truth:
July 31, 1998:
Michael announced Tuesday (July 28) that he has created a new company, Michael Jackson Japan Co Ltd. which will build theme parks and sell toys throughout the world  “The first project of the company will be the creation of a unique concept of large theme parks around the world,” Michael announced. A spokesperson of Michael’s specified about the parks, “Each park will include a course of golf, residences, and hotels. Parks will be opened in Japan and in other countries; we have already examined various sites.”
No dates were given, nor were any more details surrounding the parks.
However, Michael Jackson Japan Co Ltd. will launch a chain of toy stores called “Wonder World – Land Of Toys” in September 1999. “The first store will open in Japan. Michael Jackson Japan will organize operations in order to help the needy ones, particularly the children,” Michael announced at the press conference.
The company cost 5 million Yen ($35,000 US) and employs 11 people. In the next 5 years it hopes to have annual increases up to 200 Billion Yen ($1.4 billion US). The second Wonder World – Land Of Toys Store is expected to open in Guam, an American Pacific Island.
Let us now talk about Sony and repeat rapidly its history from the beginning.
The two founders of Sony were Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka. Morita was a businessman with a degree in physics from the Osaka Imperial University; he was a rich and influential aristocrat how joined the military. Ibuka was an electrical engineer from a modest family. He was civilian but worked for the military. He was a big dreamer who used to surprise people with his big ideas and plans. The two men met in 1944 in the Imperial Navy. It was the end of the Second World War and Japan was demolished and defeated.
When the war was over, Morita and Ibuka, like many other Japanese’s businessmen decided to help to rebuild Japan. They also wanted to do business with their war enemy, the US and to establish their products and their companies in the American soil and the market. But first they needed to catch up with American technology.
Morita and Ibuka launched their company in 1946 in Tokyo with the name Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Company ltd.
They were established in the Japanese market only in 1957 after several years of hard work and when they succeeded to produce the first “pocketable” transistor. In 1958, they changed the company’s name to Sony and headed tothe US to become a serious actor in the American business and the market.
In 1960, Sony’s first subsidiary was established in the US. At that time the western world considered the Japanese products as “bad and sloppy” – like the reputation of Chinese products some years ago. Morita, who was aware of this general conception of the Japanese trademark decided to change it by using high quality and durable materials. The company’s expansion in the US and the world began in the mid 60’s.
When we approach a complex subject like Sony, we need to consider the matter from different point of view. The Americans, who worked with Morita to establish Sony in the US, wanted mostly to do a profitable business; many of them wished to have a foot in the Japanese market as well. But not all of them got enough to be satisfied; consequently, a few of them turned against the company.
On the other hand, the belief that Sony was/is “a foreign” business coming from the Far East – the usual East-West conflict – had/has its shadowy existence, just enough to trouble the water. Some would manipulate this belief for their own interest.
We should not forget the conflicts between the companies and the moguls in different businesses. Since Sony is in several branches, the confrontations are unavoidable.
When it comes to the music industry, the economic crises have simplified the equation. Only two large companies are out and the number of bosses has reduced significantly. Nevertheless, their conflicts might be bloodier than ever!
Please check now some pictures which tell us an important part of the story!
(All the pictures are from John Nathan’s book Sony: The Private Life)
In his book Sony The Private Life, John Nathan writes the following paragraph (page 74):
 In 1968, after failing repeatedly to find a new partner for its giant record business inside the industry, Goddard Lieberson of CBS turned to Morita, who quickly saw the merit in a record company and rushed Sony into a joint venture, the first step in the direction that would lead to Hollywood .
Several years later during which Sony became also Epic’ and Colombia’s partner, the joint venture CBS/Sony Group was sold to Sony:
 In January 1988, the company had acquired CBS Records Inc. and in November of 1989, Sony purchased Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc., one of the largest motion picture companies in the world. These two major acquisitions generated mixed media coverage throughout the United States and Japan.
The acquisition of CBS Records was the result of more than a year of negotiations. At the end of 1986, under instructions from Morita and Ohga, Michael Schulhof who was then vice chairman of SONAM, began discussions with CBS Chairman William S. Paley, CBS President Laurence A. Tisch, and CBS Records President Walter R. Yetnikoff. The negotiations, which covered such issues as the price of the acquisition, continued for almost a year before their conclusion in 1987 .
Among all the people mentioned above, four are the most important actors when it comes to the matter of CBS and Sony, Morita, Ohga,Schulhof and Yetnikoff.
Morita, who was a traditional Japanese person wished to run his business in a Japanese way and wanted a Japanese successor – as well as Sony’s establishment in Tokyo. For his successor, Morita chose Norio Ohga. Ohga, musician, opera singer and conductor, was graduated from the Berlin University of Arts, also the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. During several years, Sony used him as a consultant until he was hired by Morita. Ohga mostly followed Morita’s wishes and advices.
While Morita was around (he retired more and more from 93), he and Ohga worked both with Yetnikoff. There was also Michael Schulhof who did Yetnikoff’s work after he was fired by Ohga in 1990.
In 1994-5, Ohga became the head of Sony’s board in the US and left the CEO job to another Japanese man, Nobuyuki Idei who began his job in April 1995 and retired in 2002. Idei was an academician with degree in global economics. He had worked mostly at Sony Europe. According to John Nathan (in his book Sony The Private Life) Idei was known to be a naysayer with a biting tongue. He did not like Morita and Ohga’s way of running the business. He wanted to be a “professional”. He gave an American-European chief and staff to the Sony US and let them run the company independently from Tokyo.
Idei built joint venture with Rupert Murdoch and consulted business matters with Michael Eisner, Michael Ovitz, David Geffen and Barry Diller. One of his successes was Sony Pictures.
Idei did not approve Schulhof. He (but also Norio Ohga) let Schulhof go in 1995. Tomas Mottola was chosen to replace Schulhof later in 1998.
Mottola at Sony:
President, CBS Records/Sony Music (U.S.), 1988-93;
President and chief operating officer, Sony Music Entertainment Inc. (SME), 1993-98;
Chairman and chief executive officer, 1998– 7 January 2003;
In spring 1997, Idei hired Howard Stringer, a television broadcast executive as president of the Sony America. A year later, in 98, Idei made Stringer chairman and CEO of the Sony US.
On February 1, 2012, Sony announced that Stringer would step down as President and CEO, effective April 1, to be replaced by Kazuo Hirai, Executive Deputy President and Chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment.
Now we have learned the history, let us look at the interaction between Jackson and these people.
We have heard about the warm relationship between Jackson and Morita. The best witness in this subject is Mrs. Yoshiko Morita. Please read Mrs. Morita’s memories of Michael after MJ’s passing (fromhttp://akiomorita.net/en/contents/episode/005.html).
Memories of Michael Jackson
25 June 2009—Michael Jackson Passes Away
The first time my husband Akio saw Michael was at Yokohama Stadium in 1987. We traveled from our house in Tokyo to Yokohama and were going on to our villa in Hakone for the weekend. We were simply enthralled by his music and incredible dancing.
Unlike today, there were no cell phones and the road conditions were bad, so it was very late when we arrived at the villa. On arrival we received a call from the house in Tokyo saying that Michael’s manager had been calling again and again because Michael was anxious to meet with Mr. Morita, so Akio hurriedly called his hotel.
Michael thanked Akio for coming to the show and apologized as he felt his performance was not 100%. His voice has not been at its best and he invited us to come again when he promised an even better performance.
For artists there is no peak—they constantly strive to do better—to a point that might even be called self-indulgent.
Subsequently, Michael was in Japan at the time of my birthday and he came to a party being held at my home, where this picture was taken.
As a vegetarian he avoided meat and fish and as you see we prepared a large plate of Twenty Century (Asian) pears, which were in season. I don’t remember anyone else eating them except him, and that day remains a topic of conversation in our house to this day.
He found some of Akio’s toys, such as a mechanical piano, music box, miniature street organ and a record from the Edison Museum, and spent the evening playing with them like a child .
As promised we were invited to see him perform again at Tokyo Dome in 1992. The studio always arranged for an official photo to be taken backstage and we have many lovely photos that were later signed by the artist.
The History Tour came to Tokyo Dome in December 1996. Akio had already fallen ill by that time and I don’t remember the details, but I went to the Capitol Tokyu where Michael was staying and rode to the Dome in the same car. Many fans surrounded the car and others followed in taxis. When we stopped at red lights people would pass him paper or handkerchiefs. He would sign them quickly and my job was to hand them back. He gave autographs to so many people between the hotel and the Tokyo Dome, but he never once made a face. He happily signed them, and as I sat next to him helping, I thought what a truly kind person he was.
He genuinely looked forward to meeting Akio. In 1995 he released History and at that time had a special shield made to present to Akio, as well as a signed album.
On the shield it said:
“THIS ALBUM OF MY MUSIC WARMLY DEDICATED TO AKIO MORITA… FOR OUR EVERLASTING FRIENDSHIP. WE ARE LIVING IN THE SAME DREAM FOREVER… WITH ALL MY LOVE”
After Akio fell ill in October 1993, the first message of support we received from abroad was from Michael Jackson.
It was a healing tape that he had made himself on which he had recorded his own voices saying “Mr. Morita…Mr. Morita” many times, as well as phrases such as “You will get better…you will speak again”, and a gentle song that he had chosen.
He also included a handwritten letter that said, “Play 3 times a day right before awaking before sleeping and mid day. Michael Jackson.”
I played it every morning for 10 minutes before Akio got up and every night when I put him to bed for the six years until he passed away.
In 1998 Michael performed in Honolulu, Hawaii. Pushing Akio in a wheelchair, we went to see the show at Aloha Stadium, and the next day Michael visited us at our villa. I can’t say how delighted Akio was and to this day I cannot forget his kindness at that time.
It is 10 years since Akio passed away. Michael treated Akio as a respected teacher and friend. Many times he asked questions such as “How can I better engage young people?”, “What can I do to be more respected?” and “Who should I trust?”
Michael couldn’t trust anyone and he found comfort in children and animals. Now he can rest in the comfort and peace of heaven, unbothered by others.
Many times he called me to say “I need your help”. This was 10 years ago and I regret that at the time, when Akio’s condition was at its worst, I wasn’t able to respond. I am so sorry to Michael for that. But now I believe he is resting peacefully in a happy place.
7 July 2009 Yoshiko Morita
Please read first some short quotes on Ohga and Jackson. Then some quotes from a LAT article. As we know, in 1991 Sony signed a mega contract with MJ. We have already read about this contract in part 7.
 In 1989, Sony paid $3.4 billion for Columbia Pictures, and Ohga authorized hundreds of millions more to recruit and then rapidly retire or buy out a string of colorful executives, including producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber. He also committed another $1 billion to secure the services of superstar Michael Jackson .
Since Sony dived into Hollywood in 1989, Mr. Ohga told the gathering, it has seized 20 percent of the American box office, “an all-time high for any one movie company in the past 10 years.” He waxed on about the success of Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” and the critical praise for Barbra Streisand’s “Prince of Tides.” Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” album, boasted Mr. Ohga, a former opera singer who admits that Mr. Jackson’s music was an acquired taste, “has sold over 10 million copies.”
His [Ohga’s] intuition that CD sales would outstrip vinyl was proved correct within a few years of the digital format’s introduction in 1982 – the year that he became Sony’s president and chairman. But consumers were not always ready for his other electronic leaps forward. Ohga poured resources into high-definition televisions 20 years ago; only now are they becoming standard.
His boldest move, however, was to transform Sony from a producer of music and video players into a global media brand with the capacity to deliver its own content for these machines. This was effected by hugely expensive acquisitions of a Hollywood studio, Columbia Pictures, and by promotion deals with music stars from Herbert von Karajan to Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson Agrees to Huge Contract With Sony
ALAN CITRON and CHUCK PHILIPS,Los Angeles Times Staff Writers March 21, 1991
In a thriller of a deal, pop icon Michael Jackson has signed a long-term contract with Sony Corp. that guarantees him an unprecedented share of the profits from his next six albums, his own record label, a role in developing video software products and a shot at movie stardom.
The contract, the biggest ever awarded an entertainer, is expected to return hundreds of millions of dollars to Jackson. It also cements Sony’s relationship with its biggest star, who reportedly had threatened to move to another label in a contract dispute last year.
“We’re married to him now,” Sony Software President Michael P. Schulhof said Wednesday  
“If he continues to sell records like he has in the past, he will earn more money than any other person in the history of the record business,” said one person familiar with the deal 
“A great entertainer stays ahead of the public tastes and helps shape them,” Schulhof said. “I am confident that, no matter what his age . . . he will stay ahead of the public.” 
Jackson’s much-rumored deal is the result of months of difficult negotiations between Sony executives and Jackson’s phalanx of managers and lawyers. People close to the talks said Jackson insisted on striking a bargain that bridged records, movies and video software 
The Sony deal guarantees him a presence in practically every other facet of entertainment. It is the first significant example of the cross-pollination that was supposed to result from a spate of recent media company mergers–including Sony’s deals for CBS and Columbia Pictures, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.’s $6.6-billion purchase of MCA Inc. and the mega-merger that created Time Warner Inc.
The agreement gives Jackson full authority to sign acts to the label. Sony executives predicted that “new and established artists” would become part of Nation Records. 
Jackson is not the first star to get his own record label. Frank Sinatra started Reprise before selling it to Warner Bros. The Beatles had Apple Records, and more recently labels have been established by such performers as Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and M.C. Hammer. 
In 1995, Michael Jackson merged his ATV catalog with Sony. Sony/ATV was born and gave MJ power to run businesses alongside Sony as a partner. Rarely, I quote from Wikipedia; since Sony/ATV page is well written, I have chosen some paragraphs just to refresh our memory:
In December 1995, Michael Jackson agreed to merge ATV Music Publishing with Sony Music Publishing, a division of Sony Corporation, to form Sony/ATV Music Publishing
The Japanese corporation, since it wanted to diversify in the media, offered Jackson $90 million for a 50% stake in the ATV catalogue via a merger with Sony Music. Through the agreement, Jackson would become one of the most important shareholders in Sony. Jackson gladly accepted; he had essentially acquired half ownership of the Beatles’ songs for a large profit. Jackson’s own songs were not included in the deal.
Sony and ATV having merged, the new company was named Sony/ATV Music Publishing and became the second largest music publisher in the world Michael P. Schulhof, President and CEO of Sony Corporation of America, welcomed the merger and praised Jackson for his efforts in the venture. “Michael Jackson is not only the most successful entertainer in history; he is also an astute businessman. Michael understands the importance of copyrights and the role they play in the introduction to new technologies.”He added that Jackson recognizes Sony’s “leadership in developing and realizing new technologies that serve to expand the creative horizon of artists such as himself”.
Administrative expertise was provided by Sony, who installed Paul Russell as chairman. Jackson was a company director and attended board meetings regularly. As each party in the arrangement held the power of veto, both sides would have to agree on a decision before it could be made. If neither party agreed on a decision, they would not be implemented.
Sony/ATV Music Publishing continued to acquire song catalogues in the 21st century. In November 2001, the company signed country singer Tony Martin to an exclusive songwriting and co-publishing deal. Through the deal, they acquired Martin’s Baby Mae Music catalog of 600 songs .
In July 2002, Sony/ATV Music Publishing bought veteran country music publisher Acuff-Rose for $157 million. The venture included music publishing rights to 55,000 country music songs .
Sony/ATV revived Hickory Records as the in-house record labelimprint in 2007, with distribution handled by Sony Music’s RED Distribution. Sony/ATV also owns the masters of Dial Records, Four Star Records and Challenge Records .
Digital sheet music provider Musicnotes.com announced in June 2006 that it had signed a long-term distribution agreement with Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Musicnotes.com would produce and sell digital sheet music and guitartablature for songs from Sony/ATV’s extensive catalog .
Another company acquisition was made in 2007, when Sony/ATV purchased Famous Music, a music publishing business with song catalogue of more than 125,000 songs including “Moon River” and “Footloose”  With this acquisition, Sony/ATV acquired the rights to publish music from films released by Viacom’s Paramount Pictures subsidiary, which had founded Famous Music in 1928 to publish music from its films. This also included films released by DreamWorks, which Viacom acquired in 2006.
In November 2011, Citigroup announced a tentative deal to sell EMI, with the recorded music arm going to Vivendi’s Universal Music Group for $1.9 billion and the publishing business going to a Sony/ATV-led consortium for around $2.2 billion. Other members of the Sony consortium include Blackstone and Abu Dhabi-owned investment fund Mubadala.
In March 2012, concessions were offered to the European Union to help win approval of the consortium’s purchase. The deal won European Union approval on April 19, 2012. As part of the deal, Sony/EMI divested the publishing rights for Famous Music UK and Virgin Music. These catalogues were acquired by BMG Rights Management in December 2012 for $150 million.
Sony/ATV Music Publishing is now the largest music publishing company in the world with over 2 million songs under management.
(Pic. from the book The True Story of The Beatles Song Publishing Empire written by Brian Southall and Rupert Perry)
After Schulhof’s departure from Sony, the reign of Thomas Mottola begun! As we saw above, he was in charge between 98 and 2003 and could act independently. In his protest actions in 2002, Jackson described Mottola as devilish and racist who had sabotaged the star, especially his album Invincible.
It is known that Nobuyuki Idei liked very much Jackson – from the J5 era and beyond – and wished keep MJ at Sony. Apparently, Idei had planned to design a video game based on Invincible but the fight between Mottola and Jackson put an end to the idea. Idei was not pleased.
There were mixed reactions to Jackson’s public protests against Mottola and Sony in 2002. Some people were surprised by MJ’s speeches and actions; some did not approve it. Mottola’s sabotage was hidden from the public eyes and perhaps even from Jackson himself. It must have affected Jackson gradually until the day the star realized what was going on. Since MJ exposed Mottola’s acts suddenly and without all the details, some people could not follow. When all the details will be known, the general public will understand why MJ called Mottola devilish!
Actually, Jackson’s protest actions in 02 must be seen as part of the artists’ protest actions which taken place in 2001-03 in the US. We have discussed this matter in the part 6 where we reviewed the excellent book – Unfree Masters, Recording Artists and the Politics of Work, Duke University Press, 2013 – written by Matt Dahl.
From the birth of the entertainment and the music industry, the chief executives of the big companies, the artists’ managers (especially if they are chosen from the companies) and other smaller people round the business, have built walls around the artists to separate them from each other; the competition and sometimes rivalry and jealousy have also divided the artists in the benefit of the big companies.
For the first time in 2001-03, almost the whole community of the recording artists was in uproar against all the recording companies. Like any other working categories, they acted together and fought for their cause. They had their speakers and lawyers; they sued the recording companies and succeeded to have hearings and trial. With the help of Senator Kevin Murray, there were about to change the law in the favor of the artists and entertainers.
Unfortunately, as Matt Dahl has explained in his book, the artists’ speakers could not explain and defend their demands in a convincing way. They lost their case.
Usually, the media do not talk about this social and political event because the artists’ uproar in 01-03 did not please the moguls of the industry.
However when it comes to Michael Jackson, the tabloids, the mainstream media and Jackson haters use to disconnect MJ’s protest in 2002 from its historical context and describe it as a “weird” act. Some, who had written about Jackson’s association with other artists and their uproar, have added that MJ’s move was “a selfish act”!
On the other hand, Sony haters – some of them are probably the eyes and ears of other companies – also have used Jackson’s protest against Mottola and Sony in 2002, to question Sony in general. The truth is that the partnership between Jackson and Sony was most of the time in MJ’s advantage except the years that Mottola was in charge, meaning from late 1998 to January 2003. As long as Morita, Ohga and Shulhof were around and ran the company, Michael got good deals and support. Even Idei who pushed Sony to work with different business partners, did not like Mottola’s actions.
When it comes to the accusations and the allegations against Jackson, it is clear that people in charge at Sony did not believe it. A wheelchair confined Morita and his wife ran in 1998 to Jackson’s concert to show their support while Epcot and Disney world banished MJ from its ground and projects (see part 8a)!
To refresh our memory:
Music Labels Urged to Revise Royalties
A state Senate panel criticizes record firms’ accounting and threatens to take action. December 03, 2002|Chuck Philips | Times Staff Writer
The California Senate Select Committee on the Entertainment Industry issued a report Monday calling on record labels to reform accounting practices or face legislative penalties in the future.
The report was released by Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City), the chairman of the committee. It follows a trio of hearings in Sacramento attended by more than a dozen music stars, including Courtney Love and Don Henley, who complained about being cheated by their record labels.
“I urge the record companies to consider … changes on their own to avoid … legislative action,” Murray says in the report.
During the hearings, representatives from the nation’s five largest record corporations — Vivendi Universal’s Universal Music Group, Bertelsmann’s Bertelsmann Music Group, Sony Corp.’s Sony Music Entertainment, AOL Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Music Group and EMI Group — denied to legislators that they gouge artists of earnings. Last month, however, BMG and Universal announced plans to revise their royalty accounting practices.
In the report, Murray chastises labels for forcing artists to reimburse them for the cost of recording albums and videos. He also criticizes record companies for compelling artists to pay back costs associated with marketing and independent radio promotion.
Above all, though, the report focuses on the problems surrounding accounting for artist royalties. Murray says that artists believe they are forced to sign agreements that favor the record company, and that acts are not even paid the royalties due under these contracts.
“In our legislative hearings, it was clear that artists feel they are being systematically cheated out of their royalties,” Murray says in the report. “The hearing showed that at the very least there is purposeful neglect on the part of the record company accounting departments.”
During the hearings, auditors said firms often capitalize on contracts that are loaded with royalty policies designed to override provisions benefiting artists. And because few artists can afford to audit their labels, the report says, these practices often result in windfalls for the record companies.
Murray also chides the labels for lacing contracts with clauses that essentially preclude any penalty for the underpayment of royalties — even if caught.
“Each recording contract contains a clause that the record company, no matter how egregious their behavior, will never be liable for more than the amount of royalties due,” the report says. Such clauses protect companies and entice labels to hide money from artists.
The report suggests two potential solutions. One is to introduce legislation defining the practice of paying royalties to an artist as a fiduciary duty. The second is to write a law designating severe penalties to those companies that engage in a pattern of underpayment.
“Government is usually loath to actually dictate the terms of contracts between private parties,” the report says, “but when the relative leverage of the parties significantly favors one party, government often steps in to protect the party with the least leverage.”
The matter of Mottola and Jackson has been discussed widely among Jackson’s fans. Recently, Mottola has published a book and he has mentioned MJ. A nasty piece of writing which shows how he treated the star!
To finish the subject of “Mottola” for now, I have chosen a New York magazine article which is Sony-phobe and avoids Jackson except once and in a mean context but it gives us some information about Mottola and the business. Please read a few paragraphs:
Tommy Mottola Faces The Music
On January 9, Sony had faxed around a press release: The chairman and chief executive of Sony Music, Tommy Mottola (or Thomas D. Mottola, as he preferred to be known in the newspapers) would be leaving to launch a new venture. He’d been thinking about making a change for some time, it said, and while it’s true he had a couple years to go on his contract, Sony had suddenly, graciously agreed to spring him 
But the company’s numbers were down—it lost $132 million in the first six months of its current fiscal year—and industry-wide, album sales have dipped 11 percent from 2001. The music business was being hijacked by Internet file traders, and Mottola was losing sleep over Sony’s ebbing market share.
“Tommy wouldn’t kiss Stringer’s ass,” says one business associate of Mottola’s.
“I think Tommy is one of those guys who hated having anybody as his boss,” says one executive who knows them both. “Tommy didn’t want anybody messing with him.” Finally, say those who know Stringer, he found it hard to stomach a diet of constant disrespect. “Howard was having to read about developments on the music side in the newspaper,” says a source close to Sony. “That was embarrassing.”
When Mottola left Sony, Stringer was telling people that his departing squad leader’s personal overhead, including travel and expenses, was $10 million a year. Of his five full-time assistants, three were making $180,000 a year. Employees got expensive gifts for Christmas, like $550 Gucci bags.
Mottola also had a Monopoly-board hunger for real estate. A Balinese-style villa Mottola built in Miami for himself and his third wife, Thalia, a 31-year-old Mexican singer and soap-opera fixture, was the latest in a succession of sprawling homes he renovated or built for himself. The $4 million property on Star Island, a private enclave with a guarded gate, has indoor and outdoor pools, horses, and a library. Mottola’s luxe townhouse on the Upper East Side was purchased for $13.3 million from David Geffen in 1999 and was tricked out with such niceties as a perfume refrigerator for his wife. “Tommy has an addiction to buying lavish, enormous places, overpaying for them, putting millions and millions of dollars into them, most often with good taste, showing off with them,” says a friend, “and then when they’re finished, he suddenly realizes they’re too big or too expensive.”
Indeed, his townhouse went on the block in November for a blistering $27 million. He has already lined up its successor, a more modest $9.25 million, 5,000-square-foot condo in an unspectacular building whose redeeming feature seems to be its great views.
Mottola also has a customized bulletproof car with a driver on standby; he said he needed it in case there was another terrorist attack. And he usually travels with a full phalanx of bodyguards. Why the obsession with security?
“The Tommy clique really loved power,” says one former employee. “They had this whole thing that they were untouchable.”
On the downside, one executive who’s known Howard Stringer for years says Stringer told him Mottola ran his team like a little Mafia family. And loyalty to the dysfunctional famigliawas prized. Another insider remembers sitting with Stringer last year in the Sony Club dining room when Michele Anthony walked past the table. “Tommy will know about this lunch in fifteen seconds,” Stringer said under his breath. The senior management team were like brothers and sisters, squabbling with each other over credit, spying on each other, knifing those who might presume to trespass on their turf.
If there was an unflattering leak to the gossip columns, Mottola himself would browbeat the suspects. People in the company believed he was reviewing phone records. He would sometimes hire detectives to check up on artists who were litigious with the company—most famously Michael Jackson.
“When Tommy has it in for somebody he can be unbelievably petty. He’ll call maître d’s to make sure people aren’t given tables,” says an acquaintance. Mottola’s tactics were often brass-knuckle, but those who’ve known him for many years describe him as a gangster groupie who purposefully adopted the shiny-suited look of a Mafia lieutenant. “I think he created a persona that came back to haunt him when he needed to appear presidential,” says a source close to Sony.
After taking over as head of Warner Music in 1995, Michael Fuchs remembers being invited to lunch at Mottola’s sprawling house in Bedford. Fuchs asked Mottola who was the biggest influence on the house. “But I think he misheard the question,” says Fuchs. “ ‘The biggest influence on my life, everything,’ he said, ‘was Morris Levy.’ Morris Levy was the godfather of the music business!”
Morris Levy was a nightclub impresario and record-label founder with ties to the Genovese crime family who eventually wound up in prison for conspiracy to commit extortion. Mottola had spent some time with Levy in the seventies when they both had farms in Columbia County. A frequent house guest at Levy’s was Father Louis Gigante, a priest and the brother of the stubble-cheeked, bathrobe-wearing mobster Vinny “Chin” Gigante. Mottola says he has optioned Father Gigante’s life story for a film .
In 2003-06 Michael Jackson faced a set-up trial and after being vindicated, he left the country. Following Mottola’s departure from Sony, the stormy relationship between Sony and Jackson cooled down. The Sony/ATV was growing (see above), The Ultimate Collection (2004) and Thriller 25 (2008) were launched.
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After Jackson’s untimely death, his estate was untidy; his contesters were almost sure that his assets would be sooner or later up for sale. Five years later, most of the debts are paid; the assets are safe and many lawsuits are solved in MJ’s favor. After the album Xscape, Michael Jackson’s name is again on top of the world. It seems that we are at the end of a stage and that Jackson has won the battle!
This blog is the last part of MJ-EO study. What comes next? Only the future will tell! Or if we do as Einstein used to do: I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.