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Judge to name special guardian for Michael Jackson's children [Updated]

August 10, 2009 |  1:00 pm

The judge overseeing the settling of Michael Jackson’s affairs said today that he will name a special guardian to represent the financial interests of the pop singer's three children as heirs to his lucrative music empire.

[Updated at 2:55 p.m.: A previous version of this post said the judge was considering the action, but he now says he will do it.]

Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff raised the possibility in a hearing in which he announced he had approved a $60-million deal between Columbia Pictures, the estate and concert promoter AEG Live to make a feature-length film from hundreds of hours of rehearsal footage.

Jackson’s mother supported the movie deal, but the judge said disputes between the estate administrators and Katherine Jackson over other contracts suggested the need for an independent attorney, known as a guardian ad litem, who could advocate for the performer’s two sons and daughter.

In his 2002 will, Jackson placed his assets, whose worth is estimated in the hundreds of millions, in a private family trust in which his mother and children each hold a 40% share. The remaining 20% goes to charities.

Katherine Jackson, who has custody of her grandchildren, has a team of attorneys to plead her cause, and the charities are represented by the state attorney general’s office, but no one officially speaks in court proceedings about managing of the estate for Prince, 12; Paris, 11; and 7-year-old Prince Michael II, known as Blanket.

After reviewing two proposed merchandising agreements hammered out by the administrators and opposed by Katherine Jackson, Beckloff told lawyers he felt constrained without input on behalf of the children.

“I don’t know how I approve these [contracts] without the children, who are not represented,” Beckloff said.

The judge said he hoped to make a decision about appointing a guardian this afternoon after going over Katherine Jackson’s specific objections with the administrators and attorneys for companies that want to market Jackson memorabilia, concert promoter AEG Live and merchandiser Bravado International Group Merchandising Services.

An attorney for administrators John Branca and John McClain told the judge that naming a representative for the children was unnecessary and likely would cost them money by delaying deals that are to generate income for the estate.

A guardian “would not have any material impact,” said lawyer Paul Gordon Hoffman. “These are remarkably good deals for the estate.”

Katherine Jackson’s lawyers presented the judge with a laundry list of what they described as thoughtful, detailed ways the agreements could be improved today. The judge did not make their suggestions public.

A lawyer for AEG, Kathy Jorrie, said many were “unreasonable” and one suggested the promoter, which gets a 10% cut of the film profits, simply hand over all the footage and “walk away.”

Also today, the judge ordered Katherine Jackson and her lawyers to comply with a confidentiality agreement prohibiting them from giving other access to contracts with AEG and Bravado.

Lawyers for the 79-year-old matriarch said they were concerned the agreement would prevent her from passing relevant information to “regulators and law enforcement agencies.”

Jackson’s father, Joe, has voiced suspicion about AEG, which was running his son’s comeback effort. The promoter had drawn up a contract with Dr. Conrad Murray, the cardiologist selected by Jackson as his personal physician and now the target of a manslaughter investigation, but the singer had not signed the contract.

The judge said that if “hypothetically” authorities were investigating AEG, they could seek the information from the promoter or Katherine Jackson could come to him and ask permission to break the confidentiality pact.

-- Harriet Ryan