When Michael Jackson died suddenly yesterday afternoon, media outlets the world over pored through their archives to find a unique angle on the pop icon’s death. Most of Jacko’s connections to real-world areas of interest like cars and sports were of the bizarre, whimsical variety (like his head-scratching speech to English soccer team Exeter FC). I mean, let’s face it, the guy was a human trainwreck, and we’re all gawking.
But there’s one ongoing Michael Jackson storyline that could make some very serious waves in the world of sports. Anschutz Entertainment Group, the world’s largest owner of sports teams and venues (including the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, the MLS’ Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy, English soccer team Newscastle United, and stadia like the Staples Center), was also the company producing and bankrolling Jackson’s 50-concert “comeback tour.” Now, with no Jacko and no tour, AEG faces a whopping $500 million dollar insurance liability and over $85 million in ticket refunds. Sports fans -prepare to bend over and solve AEG’s problems for them.
AEGIt was just Wednesday that AEG Europe chief David Campbell was bragging about his concert-promoting genius, saying he could have sold out 12o shows if he wanted. Good thing you didn’t, eh David? So much for hubris. London’s EVENING STANDARD reported that the mess could take some time to sort out:
Nearly a million tickets have been sold across the world for the 50 concerts at London’s O2 arena. But as it emerged that promoter AEG Live faces a £300 million insurance liability and a loss from empty nights in the venue, there were fears it could be some time before fans get their money back.
Official agents Ticketmaster and secondary ticketing agency Viagogo were unable to reassure customers, who spent up to a £1,000 for a ticket, when they would be refunded.
Yeah, about those tickets. BILLBOARD wrote that over 750,000 tickets had been sold for the concerts, totalling over $85 million in sales. Luckily for those poor saps who actually paid money for this abortion of a concert series, a source tells SPORTSbyBROOKS that the ticket money was placed in escrow so refunds won’t ultimately be a problem.
Still, the logistics of refunding $85 million, the cost of sorting it all out, the loss of merchandise revenue, and millions of dollars in other lost revenue, and AEG isn’t looking so hot right now. Of course, insurance will cover most of the lost revenue, and nobody knows for sure how much this will hurt AEG - they’re a private company, and greedy CEO Phil Anschutz is about as generous with details as he is with progressive causes, which is to say not at all. If it turns out that Jackson’s death was the result of negligence or drug abuse, AEG will likely try to recoup their investment from the King of Pop’s estate, a problematic-at-best plan for an estate that’s been dodging hundreds of millions of dollars in debt for years.But if there’s one thing sports fans have proven time and time again, they’re completely gullible when it comes to opening their wallets for sports teams. Rest assured, sports fans, you will do more than your fair share of making sure that AEG comes out of this fiasco smelling like roses.