Skip to comments.Nation of Islam Is Said to Control Michael Jackson's Business Affairs
Posted on 12/29/2003 7:23:24 PM PST by sarcasm
OS ANGELES, Dec. 29 Officials from the Nation of Islam, a separatist African-American Muslim group, have moved in with Michael Jackson and are asserting control over the singer's business affairs, friends, employees and business associates of Mr. Jackson said.
Initially invited to the Neverland Ranch several weeks ago to provide security for Mr. Jackson, members of the Nation of Islam are now restricting access to him and have begun making decisions for him related to the news media, his business affairs and even his legal strategy, some of Mr. Jackson's friends and associates said. Mr. Jackson faces charges of child molesting in Santa Barbara and recently moved into a rented house in Los Angeles, where Nation of Islam officials have accompanied him.
Efforts to reach Mr. Jackson through his spokesman were not sucessful.
Leonard Muhammad, chief of staff and son-in-law of the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, now works out of the Los Angeles office of Mark Geragos, Mr. Jackson's lawyer, the Jackson associates said. Mr. Muhammad stood behind Mr. Geragos during a recent televised news conference and, according to two of Mr. Jackson's employees who spoke on condition of anonymity, he participates in phone calls involving media and legal strategy.
In a telephone interview on Monday Mr. Geragos denied that the Nation of Islam was running Mr. Jackson's affairs. "The idea that there is some takeover by the Nation of Islam someone is spinning you," he said. "Nobody has told me what to do and what not to do. Leonard, I believe, is someone Michael consults with, just like in excess of 25 people."
Reached in Los Angeles, Mr. Muhammad declined to comment for this story. "If I decide to have a comment I'll call you," he said.
Mr. Jackson's official spokesman, Stuart Backerman, resigned on Monday to protest the group's presence, said a colleague of Mr. Backerman, who could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The employees said they spoke out because they are concerned about Mr. Jackson's welfare and because his multicultural message was at odds with the group's philosophy of black separatism. The Nation of Islam is a small group that advocates black self-empowerment and a separate African-American state, and some of its leaders have espoused anti-Semitic, anti-gay and racist rhetoric. Mr. Jackson is not Muslim nor a member of the Nation of Islam.
"The Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan's son-in-law have taken over completely and are in full and total charge," said one senior Jackson employee, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They have gone in and taken over control of the finances in terms of who's getting paid, how much," the employee added. "They're approving all funds and have decided they have control of the business manager and accountant, without signing authority or power of attorney. They are working out of Geragos's office; in essence they're telling him what to do."
A business associate of Mr. Jackson who was accustomed to speaking to the singer daily said there were about a half-dozen Nation of Islam members around the singer constantly, whether at Neverland or in Los Angeles. "These people are basically brainwashing him," said the associate, who is also a friend of Mr. Jackson's. "They tried to do the same thing to Whitney Houston. They offer a false sense that they can control everything. Everyone is scared of them. They pretty much keep Michael semi-captive."
Another Jackson employee said: "They're negotiating business deals with him. They're negotiating media deals, who can talk, how much. You've got a lawyer who's scared to throw them out. Michael doesn't know what to do with them."
The employees said Mr. Geragos and Mr. Muhammad together negotiated an interview of Mr. Jackson by the CBS program "60 Minutes," which was shown on Sunday, in exchange for an agreement by the network to broadcast a still-incomplete Michael Jackson special, for which Mr. Jackson would be paid $5 million.
The interview was negotiated last week by Les Moonves, chief executive of CBS, over the objections of Jackson advisers who said they thought it was a bad idea to put Mr. Jackson on television while he faced felony charges.
Mr. Geragos said that members of Mr. Jackson's security detail were Muslim, but that did not mean they belonged to the Nation of Islam. Mr. Geragos said that he felt these accusations of Nation of Islam control have originated with the Santa Barbara district attorney's office, which is "playing the race card," he said.
But a half-dozen people from Mr. Jackson's inner circle, some speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had not been able to talk to the star in weeks and laughed at the notion that the district attorney was the source of their own comments.
Mr. Jackson's main business partners, Dieter Wiesner and Ronald Konitzer, said that they had been unable to get to Mr. Jackson for the last two weeks. "These are difficult times," Mr. Konitzer said in a phone interview. "My concern is the business side. I would like to get back to business." Asked if he were being pushed out by the Nation of Islam, Mr. Konitzer said: "I don't want to comment on that one."
Others who are said not to be able to contact Mr. Jackson include Mr. Backerman and Mark Schaffel, one of Mr. Jackson's business associates, who could not be reached for comment.
Despite the concern of Jackson employees about the CBS interview, Mr. Geragos said Mr. Jackson himself decided to give the interview, and that it was not unusual for high-profile figures awaiting trial to speak to the media. "Michael wanted to make a statement, his fans wanted him to," Mr. Geragos said. "People are extremely interested." Mr. Muhammad was present briefly during the interview, Mr. Geragos said.
In the interview Mr. Jackson again confirmed that he enjoyed sleeping with children, though not in a sexual way. "Of course why not?" he said when asked about it. "If you're going to be a pedophile, if you're going to be Jack the Ripper, if you're going to be a murderer, it's not a good idea. That I am not." He also accused the police of brutality in handcuffing him and humiliated him by locking him in a bathroom smeared with feces during his arrest.
Eyewitnesses said that Mr. Jackson was guarded by Nation of Islam security at a party at Neverland on the Saturday before Christmas. He was not permitted to leave his main house because of alleged security risks that day, nor in the two days after the party, they said.
"Security told him the premises was not secure, they'd rather have him back in the house," said a friend of Mr. Jackson who was a guest at the party, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I felt like Michael was a prisoner in his own house. The bottom line is: what kind of security do you need in your own home?"
Meanwhile Mr. Jackson has rented a house in downtown Los Angeles, where he is also accompanied by Nation of Islam security. He told "60 Minutes" he considered Neverland tainted because of the police search.
The motives of Mr. Muhammad and the Nation of Islam are not clear. The group, which believes in black pride and racial separation, has not supported Mr. Jackson in the past; Mr. Jackson has undergone extensive cosmetic surgery and his children appear to be Caucasian.
But some would consider gaining Mr. Jackson as a follower or proponent of the tiny group, which numbers about 20,000, to be a huge coup.
Mr. Jackson's now-shunned advisors say they fear the Nation of Islam intends to use Mr. Jackson's celebrity to increase its visibility and make money off the star, and that Mr. Jackson is too naïve to suspect otherwise.
Mr. Jackson was introduced to the Nation of Islam through his nanny, Grace Rwarmba, who is a member of the group, and through Mr. Jackson's brother Jermaine, several people close to Mr. Jackson said. They also said that the nanny had taken a much more prominent role recently in controlling access to the singer.
The pop star met Mr. Farrakhan in Las Vegas last month, and the Nation of Islam leader "talked like a father to him," said someone present at the meeting. "They prayed together." Around Thanksgiving Mr. Muhammad moved up to Neverland and is said to have begun asserting control.
Mr. Farrakhan has called Judaism a "gutter religion" and as recently as November gave a speech in which he called Jews the "masters of Hollywood" who feed "the minds of the American people and the people of the world filth and indecency."
A bit of an understatement. This whole thing is getting bizzare. If this were a novel or movie it wouldn't be considered even vaguely plausible in the real world, I would think.
I wonder if they discussed Farrakhan's numerological theories and "the mothership "
They'll rob him blind!
He has a mothership too?
If I had a kewpie dolly, you'd win it. Jacko will sign over the rights to his music before this is over. Wait and see.
If Jackson gets off on the criminal charges, I foresee a good 5 years dancing with the IRS if the Nation of Islam gets into his money.
Jacko will be like Capone - sent up on a tax rap!
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