Los Angeles - A judge approved a pay bump on Monday for the executors of Michael Jackson's estate who turned the debt-ridden singer's portfolio into a business that has earned hundreds of millions of dollars since his death.
Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff allowed attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain to bill the estate separately for their professional services, which include entertainment-related legal counsel and use of a recording studio founded by Marvin Gaye.
Attorneys for Branca and McClain sought the change, saying the executors spend an increasing amount of time on Jackson's estate and have been paying legal expenses to Branca's firm out of their share of the earnings.
The men agreed in February 2010 to accept 10% of the gross entertainment-related earnings of the estate, minus money generated by Jackson's 50% interest in the Sony-ATV music catalogue and earnings from This Is It, a film compiled from the singer's final rehearsals.
The exclusions are huge revenue generators for the estate — the Sony-ATV catalogue includes publishing rights to music by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and other stars. The executors also have been excluded an interest in Jackson's music, which has sold briskly since his death June 25 at age 50.
Since then, the estate has earned more than $310m.
Branca and McClain have been earning closer to 7% of the estate's entertainment-related earnings, as the estate has become a "massive entertainment business enterprise", court filings state.
Branca and McClain said they are spending more time developing Jackson projects than anticipated, including music, video games and a touring Cirque-du-Soleil show that will eventually become a Las Vegas fixture.
Under the deal approved on Monday, Branca's firm Ziffren Brittenham LLP will now receive 3% of entertainment-related income generated by Jackson's estate.
Estate attorney Howard Weitzman said the firm was performing work that would cost more than $2m a year if it was being handled by another firm, and court filings state that a traditional entertainment estate would include additional managers and attorneys who would receive up to 30% of the estate's overall revenue.
There was no estimate for how much McClain's billings may be. He bought and restored Gaye's former Los Angeles studio in 1997, christening it Marvin's Room, and Jackson and other top singers have recorded music there.
The estate benefits Jackson's mother, Katherine, and the singer's three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket. They received an initial $30m payment on the estate's proceeds earlier this year.
Attorneys for Katherine Jackson and the children had no objection to augmenting the compensation for Branca and McClain. Meg Lodise, who represents the children's interest, said, "It is quite clear that what they're proposing is going to be fair to the estate."
Weitzman told Beckloff that the estate has recently resolved creditors' claims worth at least $11m and is working to resolve any other valid outstanding debts. Jackson died with an estimated $400m in debts, but renewed interest in his music and career have fattened the estate's accounts, which listed $90m in cash on hand in a September court filing.
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