LOS ANGELES — The promoter of Michael Jackson's ill-fated series of comeback shows created a conflict of interest with the singer's physician when it negotiated terms of his deal, an expert testifying for the superstar's mother told a jury Monday.
David Berman told jurors hearing a negligent hiring lawsuit against concert promoter AEG Live LLC that the company should not have negotiated with Jackson's physician without notifying the singer's representatives of the discussion.
The former head of Capitol Records and holder high-level positions at several other record companies is being paid to testify for Katherine Jackson in her lawsuit against AEG Live.
Asked whether it was appropriate for the concert company to attempt to hire a doctor on Jackson's behalf, Berman responded: "I believe that it's highly inappropriate. It is highly unusual."
A more appropriate relationship would have been for Jackson to hire cardiologist Conrad Murray without any involvement from AEG Live, Berman said. Based on draft contracts and emails between company executives, Berman said he believed AEG Live thought it controlled the physician.
Berman retired from the music industry in 2001 to become an expert witness for music industry-related lawsuits. He said he had never heard of a situation in which a tour promoter hired a doctor on behalf of an artist. He began working in the music business in 1969 as a transactional attorney before making the leap to record executive, working with acts such as The Eagles, Van Halen, The Beach Boys, The Doors and other big-name acts.
Berman said he believed that music companies owe a higher obligation to artists than to music buyers or concertgoers and, in this instance, AEG failed Jackson.
He was shown emails in which a tour accountant traded emails with Murray without including any of the singer's representatives.
To prepare for his testimony, Berman said he had reviewed numerous documents, including 26 depositions and testimony from AEG executives during the trial, which is now in its eighth week. He said he is being paid $500 an hour for his work on the case.
Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011, was never paid his $150,000 per month fee for working with Jackson. The superstar died from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol before signing Murray's contract.
AEG denies it hired Murray. The company's executives and lawyers have said the company was merely advancing Jackson the money to pay Murray, and a valid contract never existed. Its executives also have stated that it agreed to pay Murray's salary only because Jackson insisted on him coming on tour.
An AEG attorney showed Berman an statement signed by Jackson's former manager, Frank Dileo, stating that he was aware of negotiations with Murray, and that it was his understanding that AEG Live's CEO objected to bringing the physician on tour.
The company's lawyers have yet to question Berman but already have objected to his expertise. An AEG Live defense attorney has noted that Berman was never a tour producer or promoter — functions that AEG Live was serving as during preparations for Jackson's comeback shows.
Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos reminded jurors Monday that they will ultimately decide whether AEG Live hired Murray.
It will be several more weeks before the trial concludes. Plaintiff's attorney Brian Panish said Monday that he expects to finish his case the week of July 8.