By Corina Knoll and Jeff Gottlieb
4:29 PM EDT, April 29, 2013
The attorney for Michael Jackson’s family painted entertainment powerhouse Anschutz Entertainment Group as a gang of ruthless executives concerned only with becoming No. 1 in the concert business and caring nothing about the singer's well-being.
Attorney Brian Panish began his opening statement Monday in the Jackson-AEG suit by talking about Jackson’s addiction to prescription drugs.
He also mentioned Dr. Conrad Murray, the debt-ridden doctor who administered the fatal dose of propofol to Jackson and was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
But it was AEG, Panish said, that completed the puzzle in Jackson’s 2009 death.
“Michael had a problem, Dr. Murray had a problem and AEG had a problem,” Panish told the jury of six men and six women in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Monday.
“You know what AEG’s problem was? They were not No. 1 in the concert business but they wanted to be.”
The attorney said the company wanted to exploit Jackson to catch up to their competitor in the concert business, Live Nation, at all costs.
“You don’t do that with white gloves,” Panish said. “You do what you gotta do if you want to be No. 1 in this rough business of concert promotions.”
The wrongful-death suit against AEG was filed by the singer’s mother, Katherine -- who was in the courtroom Monday along with Michael Jackson’s siblings Rebbie and Randy -- and his three children. Jackson died on the eve of what was to be a comeback series of concerts in 2009.
The suit accuses AEG of pushing Jackson beyond his limits and being responsible for hiring and controlling Murray.
“There were no rules,” Panish told the jury, when it came to furthering AEG’s success. “It didn’t matter what it took. … AEG had a problem and they wanted to fix it and they didn’t care who got lost in the wash.”
Using slides and photos, Panish quoted from emails among AEG executives that surfaced last year as evidence of the attitude. In one, AEG Live President and CEO Randy Phillips described screaming at Jackson, whom he called an “emotionally paralyzed mess,” before a news conference.
"Forget about helping Mr. Jackson,” Panish said. “The show must go on.”
Murray’s involvement only created a downward spiral for Jackson because the doctor’s “financial condition made him susceptible to pressure and created a conflict between his patient’ needs and AEG’s needs,” Panish said.
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