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Michael Jackson scheduled to play live

March 5, 2009 |  9:14 am

Jackson_2 Michael Jackson may play up to 20 or 25 shows at London's O2 arena, and is slated to begin a run of 10 dates on July 9. A press conference was set up today in London to announce the concerts, but AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke broke the news earlier to Billboard.

Leiweke told the publication that his company has been in talks for two years with Jackson. He also addressed the mental state of the "King of Pop."  "The man is very sane, the man is very focused, the man is very healthy," Leiweke is quoted as saying. "I think he has been dragged through the mud."

As noted earlier this week, the O2 arena is the same venue Prince played for 21 nights in 2007, a string of concerts Billboard notes grossed more than $22 million. It's been more than 10 years since Jackson staged a substantial tour, and no dates beyond London are expected to be announced today.

The official press conference is being streamed live on the Web, and updates are being posted to a Twitter feed. The event was due to start at 8 a.m. PST, but as of about 9 a.m., the Jackson Twitter said he might still be at his hotel. Earlier, the Twitter feed operator seemed to mistake the arrival of a security guard for La Toya Jackson.

Rumors of Jackson's return to the stage are a regular happening in the pop music world. Last year, Jackson's brother Jermaine tipped that Michael would be part of a Jackson 5 tour, which turned out to not be true. Also last year, Jackson was advertised to appear on the Grammy Awards, which also turned out to not be true.

Additionally, a new album from Michael has also long been in the works, and the former King of Pop has been linked with the likes of Akon, will.i.am and Ne-Yo, but it hasn't materialized. Michael's last studio album was 2001's "Invincible," and "Thriller" got the anniversary treatment in 2008.

Instead of discussion about new music, though,  Jackson's mental and financial health have dominated coverage of the international star. Speaking to Billboard, AEG's Leiweke tried to quiet the skeptics. He told the publication, "Despite everything you read about him, he was fine. The man took a physical for us to go do these concerts."

Jackson's famous Neverland compound in Santa Barbara County had "hovered on the brink of foreclosure for an eternity," The Times recently reported. It was widely reported that surrendered the title to the Sycamore Valley Ranch Co. -- a joint venture between Jackson and an affiliate of Colony Capital LLC.

--Todd Martens

RELATED: Michael Jackson says London shows will be his last in the city.

Credit: Associated Press

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