Michael Jackson said he believed he paid a former business associate who claims the pop star owes him $3.8 million, according to videotaped testimony Thursday.
Part of the recorded testimony was shown to jurors during opening remarks by a lawyer representing former Jackson adviser F. Marc Schaffel, who filed a civil suit seeking payment for unpaid loans and past work.
“I’m sure he got money,” Jackson said in the deposition recorded last fall in London.
Asked how he could be so sure, Jackson said, “Because he always seemed to be happy.”
The lawyer responded: “Money doesn’t buy happiness.”
Schaffel’s attorney, Howard King, told the jury, which was sworn in earlier in the day, that Jackson frequently claimed he didn’t remember details of his own finances.
In the tape, dated Sept. 23, 2005, Jackson wore a dark shirt and answered questions in a quiet voice. He was asked if he thought Schaffel wanted to be paid for his services.
“I know he wanted something from me, of course,” Jackson said. “I do remember these long letters. He wanted me to pay him.”
King said he would call a number of Jackson’s former advisers to discuss their business dealings with the superstar.
Jackson’s attorney has said his client severed ties with Schaffel when he learned the producer was connected to gay pornography.
On Thursday, King glossed over Schaffel’s links to the gay pornography industry, saying, “Mr. Schaffel has a successful business background and one of these was in the legal adult entertainment business. In 2000 he was done with that and he began to work with Mr. Jackson.”
Jackson’s lawyer, Thomas C. Mundell, contended in his statement that the pop star is famously forgetful and he charged that Schaffel fraudulently shuffled funds from Jackson’s accounts to his own pocket and billed Jackson for expenses when he no longer worked for him.
A detailed forensic accounting of Jackson’s books would show that Schaffel actually owes Jackson money, Mundell said. Vast amounts of money delivered to Jackson by Schaffel were actually wire transfers from other people and not money that Schaffel paid out of his own funds, the attorney said.
Schaffel is a meticulous record keeper, saving receipts for every penny spent, but has no receipts to show money delivered or obtained from Jackson, Mundell said, showing the jury expensed receipts submitted by Schaffel that included $5.17 spent at a Taco Bell and $2.11 spent at a 7-Eleven for Advil.
“The evidence will show Mr. Schaffel should have left well enough alone,” said Mundell. “He could have gotten away with a chunk of money from Michael Jackson ... but he sued for several million dollars.”
He acknowledged Schaffel at one time was owed about $500,000 in royalties for two TV shows he produced for Jackson and suggested that amount would have been paid had it not been for the current lawsuit.
The first witness called by King was Allan Whitman, a longtime Jackson business manager who was fired this week. He said it had nothing to do with the lawsuit but didn’t elaborate.
Whitman gave a detailed account of the many advisers who came and went as Jackson hired and fired those who had the most control over his financial empire.
Some, Whitman said, were paid $100,000 a month for services while others such as billionaire Ron Burkle and business magnate Alvin Malnik donated their services for free.
Whitman said he met Jackson only once during the six years he worked for the pop star and communicated with him by phone “infrequently.”