Michael Jackson's dismal public image in his final years meant his last concert series had no sponsors, despite record advance ticket sales for the 50 planned shows, a witness said yesterday.
The testimony of Eric Briggs, of FTI Consulting, opened the 14th week of the Jackson family's lawsuit against concert promoters AEG Live.
The King of Pop's mother, Katherine, and his children are suing AEG for negligence, blaming the company for causing his death in 2009.
They accuse AEG Live of pushing Jackson too hard as he rehearsed in Los Angeles for his This is It comeback concert series in London and of negligently hiring doctor Conrad Murray to look after him.
Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 over Jackson's 25 June 2009 death from an overdose of the surgical anaesthetic propofol, administered to help the 50-year-old singer with chronic insomnia.
The family is demanding $1,5 billion (R15 billion) in damages ? the amount their expert estimates Jackson would have earned from the concert and a worldwide tour if he’d lived.
But Briggs, a defence witness, argued against this estimate yesterday at the Los Angeles Superior Court.
He emphasised that the pop icon's image had deteriorated greatly in the years leading up to his death ? so much so that no company agreed to sponsor his final tour ? even though the 50 London shows sold out within hours.
"Brand companies appreciate artists can be great performers, but that doesn't mean they want to put their names next to the performers," Briggs said.
According to him, Jackson's image rebounded somewhat in the 1990s, but it plummeted again in 2003 for several reasons, most notably the accusations he molested young boys.
For big-name labels Jackson was a risk because new scandals could emerge without warning, Briggs explained, and "brands are looking for predictability".