LOS ANGELES (AP) — The head of AEG Live told a jury on Tuesday that he believes a lawsuit filed by Michael Jackson‘s mother against the concert promotion company was a baseless extortion attempt.
CEO Randy Phillips also said the company bears no responsibility for Jackson’s 2009 death, as his mother contends.
Katherine Jackson is suing AEG Live LLC, claiming it failed to properly investigate the doctor who was later convicted of her son’s death. AEG denies wrongdoing.
Phillips said he agreed with statements attributed to him and defense attorney Marvin S. Putnam that the case was a shakedown.
“Yes or no, answer? Yes,” Phillips said in response to a question by Katherine Jackson’s attorney Brian Panish.
Phillips is the highest-ranking AEG executive to testify in the case, now in its sixth week.
He will likely be asked about numerous emails he sent and received about Jackson’s health in the final weeks of the superstar’s life, as well as any interactions he had with former cardiologist Conrad Murray.
Murray agreed to serve as Jackson’s doctor for $150,000 a month while he performed 50 shows titled “This Is It” in London’s 02 Arena in 2009 and early 2010.
AEG denies hiring Murray and agreeing to pay Murray’s fee as an advance to Jackson.
Phillips’ testimony came after several days of often tense testimony from AEG Live executive Paul Gongaware, who told jurors he did not remember numerous details about Jackson’s rehearsals and emails he sent about the singer.
Panish sparred with Gongaware, and pointedly questioned Phillips, whom he called to the stand as a hostile witness.
Panish asked Phillips whether he was eager to tell his side of the story.
“I believe you called me as a witness, so I’m here,” Phillips said flatly.
Panish at one point asked the executive whether he was familiar with the music industry.
“Familiar with the music industry? I was working in it,” Phillips replied.
At another point in his testimony when the executive appeared to crack a smile, Panish asked if he thought the proceedings were funny.
“No, I think it’s tragic.” Phillips replied.