As the latest signal of Michael Jackson's apparent financial difficulties, one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the child molestation case against the pop star intends to slap a lien Friday on Jackson's Neverland ranch, NBC News has learned.
F. Mark Schaffel, a gay porn producer who also produced two unaired "rebuttal" videos meant to counter the negative publicity from the 2003 documentary, "Living With Michael Jackson," is seeking to ensure he is repaid what he claims are at least $3 million in outstanding debts: $1 million for production of the two videos, and more than $2 million in personal loans, payments and gifts for such famous Jackson friends as Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando.
A lien on Jackson's ranch outside Santa Barbara, which is now valued at more than $22 million, would help put pressure on Jackson to ensure Schaffel is repaid, according to Howard King, Schaffel's attorney.
"If he wants to sell all of the Ferris wheels and the trains, our lien will not be against those assets," King told NBC. "It's strictly the real estate."
In Jackson's trial, both prosecutors and defense lawyers have suggested the pop star is facing serious financial and cash flow problems.
Jackson is on trial for allegedly molesting a a 13-year-old former cancer patient, in late February or early March 2003. He also is accused of giving the boy alcohol and conspiring to hold him, his brother, sister and mother captive to get them to make videos rebutting the Feb. 2003 documentary.
In that program by British TV personality Martin Bashir, Jackson said he let young boys share his bed.
The key issue regarding the lien appears to be whether the pop icon really is facing legitimate financial woes. King says the allegations of cash-flow troubles aren't quite true: "To put it simply, Mr. Jackson is rich and has no money."
King said he had learned a new internal restructuring plan by Jackson's advisers could resolve any cash flow difficulties and leave Jackson with $10 million in annual disposable income and no debt.
And a source intimately involved in Jackson's business affairs told NBC a proposed bailout plan for the star would allow him to retain many of his assets, including the rights not only to his own songs but thousands of others, including hits by Elvis and the Beatles.
It would, the source said, "take him out of financial harm's way now and for a long time in the future."
A spokesman and two lawyers for Jackson declined to comment on the singer's financial affairs, citing a gag order.