By Jeff Gottlieb
6:55 PM EDT, May 29, 2013
An email from a ranking AEG executive that was shown in court Wednesday could be among the most telling pieces of evidence in answering a central question in the Michael Jackson wrongful death suit: who employed Dr. Conrad Murray?
“Frank and I have discussed it already and have requested a face-to-face meeting with the doctor, hopefully Monday," AEG Live co-CEO Paul Gongaware wrote on June 14, 2009, 11 days before Murray administered a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol to the singer.
"We want to remind him that it is AEG, not MJ who is paying his salary. We want him to understand what is expected of him."
One of driving questions in the wrongful death case is whether it was concert promoter AEG or Jackson who hired and controlled Murray, who is now serving time for involuntary manslaughter,
Confronted with the email as he sat on the witness stand Wednesday, Gongaware said he didn't recall writing it.
“I don’t understand it because we weren’t paying his salary," Gongaware said.
“So why were you writing it?" asked Brian Panish, the Jackson family's attorney.
"I have no idea," Gongaware replied.
The AEG executive later said the email was "shorthand" between him, tour director Kenny Ortega and Jackson's manager Frank Dileo. “I was going through hundreds of emails a day. If I knew lawyers four years later were picking everything apart, I may have been more careful choosing my words,” Gongaware testified.
Gongaware also testified that in response to concerns over Jackson's health from Ortega, he was trying to find the singer a nutritionist and physical therapist.
Ortega replied in a June 15, 2009, email , "Super. Not a minute too soon. Let’s turn this guy around!”
Asked by Panish if Oretga raised his concerns about Jackson's health, Gongaware replied, "Perhaps."
"I was never concerned about Michael Jackson. I knew when the houselights went off, he would be there and on."
In their lawsuit, Jackson's mother and three children contend that AEG negligently hired and supervised Murray, who was supposed to be paid $150,000 a month. AEG says that any money it was supposed to pay the doctor was an advance to Jackson.
In another email exchange, this one with the assistant to Tim Leiweke, then chief executive of parent company Anschutz Entertainment Group, Gongaware wrote that he couldn't tell her which day the "This Is It" concerts would open in London because Jackson hadn't shown up to rehearsal.
“Pray for me," he wrote May 5, 2009. "This is a nightmare. Not coincidentally, I have them now every night. Cold sweats, too. Life used to be so much fun…"
Gongaware testified that he was joking in the email.
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