By Jeff Gottlieb
10:46 PM EDT, June 5, 2013
His name is Dr. Tohme Tohme, and although he has not taken the witness stand in the Michael Jackson wrongful death case, he was the center of attention Wednesday.
Tohme was one of Jackson’s many managers, who seemed to come and go.
“With Michael Jackson and his advisers you needed a scorecard,” testified Randy Phillips, chief executive of AEG Live, which was promoting and producing the singer’s comeback concerts.
Phillips said he was introduced to Tohme in a meeting at the Century City offices of Colony Capital, the investment firm that held the mortgage on Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. It was AEG owner Phillip Anschutz’s friendship with a Colony Capital partner that led to the firm’s promotion of the planned 50 “This Is It” concerts at the 02 Arena in London. Phillips said Tohme was an adviser to Colony Capital who had no background in the music business and represented no other clients when he began working with the singer.
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Brian Panish, the attorney for Jackson’s mother and three children in an ongoing wrongful death suit against AEG, asked Phillips what kind of doctor Tohme was, whether he was a physician or if he had a doctorate.
Phillips said that although he had met this doctor 25 times, he never asked him.
The jury was shown a June 17, 2009, email Phillips wrote to Tohme, eight days before Jackson died from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol. Phillips wrote him that he had an “intervention” with Jackson scheduled “to get him to focus and come to rehearsals…Getting him fully engaged is difficult and the most pressing matter as we are only 20 days from the first show.”
Phillips said the intervention was not drug related.
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Panish asked the executive if Jackson had ever fired Tohme.
“It’s not a yes or no answer,” he said. “The answer is yes but he kept in contact with him.” Panish later showed Phillips an agreement in which AEG agreed to pay Tohme $100,000 a month and asked if that was common practice, even though the manager is supposed to represent the performer, not the promoter.
“In Michael Jackson’s case it was standard,” Phillips said.
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Panish persisted, and Phillips said AEG’s payments to Jon Bon Jovi’s manager were the only other time it had made a similar arrangement.
He also said two of Jackson’s attorneys helped draft the agreement.
The Jacksons' attorney brought the courtroom to attention when he asked Phillips if he met with Tohme at the Polo Lounge recently. Phillips said they had lunch there about a month ago.
“And you were discussing his testimony in this case at the Polo Lounge with him?” Panish asked.
“I wasn’t,” Phillips said.
“You know there were witnesses sitting around you?” Panish said. “You know people took pictures of you?
Phillips said he didn’t remember exactly what was discussed.
“I don’t remember what I ate,” he said.
“I didn’t ask you what you ate,” snapped Panish.
Phillips said the meeting had to do with the case Tohme filed against Jackson’s estate with the state labor board for money he was never paid. Phillips was a witness.
Outside the courtroom, Panish said he found the meeting “very suspicious” and said that Tohme’s AEG deal was one of the conflicts of interest “that are flying everywhere” in the case.
Marvin Putnam, AEG’s attorney, who was also at the Polo Lounge meeting, said the money AEG was supposed to give to Tohme would have been an advance to Jackson but that no payments were made.
“It’s not a conflict remotely,” Putnam said. He also said Tohme’s testimony was not discussed at the Polo Lounge, but there would be nothing wrong if they had.
The wrongful death case revolves around Dr. Conrad Murray. The Jacksons say that AEG negligently hired and supervised him while the entertainment giant says the singer hired Murray and that any payments it was supposed to make to him would have been advances to Jackson, just like those to Tohme.
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