By Jeff Gottlieb
3:05 PM EDT, May 31, 2013
Michael Jackson lost $26 million on the first leg of the HIStory tour in the mid-1990s and was in debt for sound, lighting and other expenses, according to testimony Friday in the wrongful death suit his family has filed.
Paul Gongaware, now co-CEO of AEG Live/Live Nation, testified he was brought as tour executive for the 40 concerts that made up the second leg of the world tour.
“I had to go in and cut a lot of expenses," Gongaware said. "There was so much excess."
Gongaware said HIStory, at the time considered one of the most ambitious tours ever, eventually broke even.
He said Jackson’s performances were "sensational" and he saw no evidence the singer was using drugs. Gongaware did not start working for AEG until 2000, when the entertainment firm bought his company, Live Nation.
Gongaware is a defendant in the wrongful suit filed by Jackson's mother and children against AEG. The Jacksons allege that AEG negligently hired and supervised Conrad Murray, the doctor who administered a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol to the singer in 2009.
AEG contends that it was Jackson who hired Murray and that any money the firm was supposed to pay the doctor was merely part of a much larger cash advance to the singer.
Gongaware, in his fourth day on the stand, also testified that in 2008 Jackson met in Century City with Colony Capital, a group of investors, that held the mortgage on Jackson's Neverland ranch, which was threatened with foreclosure.
“Whoever held the note before … was about to foreclose on Neverland and Colony came in, I think at last-minute, and took on that obligation," Gongaware said.
He said Colony was trying to figure out a way to hold a Jackson exhibit or museum at the Las Vegas Hilton, which the firm owned. But nothing came of the discussions.
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