By Jeff Gottlieb
4:40 PM EDT, May 28, 2013
Three months before Michael Jackson died, a top executive of concert promoter AEG Live wrote an email to another company executive saying, "We need to pull the plug now. I will explain."
The email was sent on March 25, 2009, and was from Randy Phillips to Paul Gongaware, who took the stand Tuesday in what is expected to be the first of several days of testimony.
Gongaware denied that the email was a reference to calling off Jackson’s "This Is It" concerts in London but instead was pointed at "pulling the plug on Karen Faye," the singer's hairstylist, makeup artist and longtime friend who had expressed fears about Jackson's poor health.
"We never talked about pulling the plug on the Michael Jackson tour, not that I recall.” said Gongaware, co-chief executive of AEG Live's touring division.
Faye testified earlier in the trial that she told tour director Kenny Ortega in June that she was worried Jackson would die.
In another March 25, 2009, email, Ortega wrote Gongaware that it was Faye's "strong opinion that this is dangerous and impractical with consideration to MJ's health and ability to perform." The singer died June 25, 2009, as he was rehearsing for the tour.
The email, shown to the jury in the wrongful-death suit filed by Jackson's mother and children, raises questions about how early people began sending out warnings about Jackson's health.
"I think Kenny wanted to pull the plug on her because of the way she handled the situation," Gongaware testified about Faye. "She tried to control access to Michael Jackson, and Kenny didn’t like that.”
In other emails shown to the jury, Gongaware denigrated Jackson's work ethic. He told his assistant to change the colors of a calendar so the singer would think he had more days off.
"Figure it out so it looks like he's not working so much," Gongaware wrote.
Another email, Gongaware said, was about the need for Jackson to appear at a news conference in London announcing the concerts.
"We cannot be forced into stopping this, which MJ will try to do because he is lazy and constantly changes his mind to fit his immediate wants,” he wrote.
Explaining the email, Gongaware testified that Jackson "really didn’t like to rehearse. He didn’t like to do these kinds of things."
Jackson's mother and three children are suing AEG for negligently hiring and supervising Conrad Murray, the doctor who administered a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol to the singer.
AEG maintains that Jackson hired Murray and that any money the company was supposed to pay the physician was actually part of an advance to the singer.
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