Pop megastar Michael Jackson and a Bahraini prince said Monday they have struck an "amicable" deal to avoid going to court in London in a seven-million-dollar lawsuit.
Jackson had been due to appear at the High Court to defend himself over allegations that he owed the money to Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the second son of the king of Bahrain.
But he called off his trip at the last minute after his legal team in London struck an out-of-court deal, the exact terms of which were kept secret.
"Sheikh Abdulla and Michael Jackson are pleased to confirm that they have amicably settled their dispute," said a joint statement by their legal teams in London.
"They wish each other well in their own, respective endeavours," it said, while the sheikh's lawyer Bankim Thanki told the court that the accord had been reached "on confidential terms."
According to New York Daily News, Michael Jackson's New York lawyer, Londell McMillan, also took the opportunity to trash a British press report that Jackson has become a Muslim. "That's rubbish. It's completely untrue," McMillan told reporters.
Jackson, 50, was for years one of the world's most successful pop artists, and his 1982 hit "Thriller" remains the best-selling album of all time.
But his trial on child sexual molestation charges in 2005 marked a dramatic fall from grace, even though he was acquitted, and he has been dogged by financial difficulties since then.
The London court case added to his woes: the prince demanded the repayment of several advances he said he had made as part of a joint music project in Bahrain, which Jackson pulled out of.
The sheikh's lawyer said his client had supported Jackson financially after the 2005 trial: he notably accepted a request for one million dollars in April 2005 and paid the 2.2-million-dollar legal bill for the court case.
Jackson signed a contract to record albums, write an autobiography and stage shows. Under the terms of that, document seven million dollars were to be deducted from the artist's royalties to pay for expenses, Thanki said.
But Jackson said the sheikh's case was based on "mistake, misrepresentation and undue influence," insisting that any money received had been a gift.
There was "no doubt that Sheikh Abdulla was very generous in his hospitality and general treatment of Michael Jackson," the pop star's lawyer Robert Englehart said last week.
Earlier this month he lost ownership of his Neverland ranch in California after transferring the deeds to a company he has a share in, according to media reports.
The eccentric singer purchased the sprawling 1,000 hectare ranch in Santa Barbara County in 1987 and set out to transform it into a paradise for children.
But he has not lived in it since his 2005 trial, which arose from alleged incidents involving a young boy at the property.
The US pop star only agreed last Thursday to travel to London for the latest court case, after his request to be allowed to give evidence by video link was refused.
During argument last week over his court appearance, Jackson's lawyers said the star was suffering from an unspecificed medical condition and it was unlikely that he would be able to give evidence in person.
Experts for the sheikh said, though, that it may have been possible for Jackson to testify in London with "suitable dressings", according to the BBC.
(AFP November 25, 2008)