Michael Jackson’s Ex-Manager Takes the Stand in Tax Trial

Tohme Tohme's testimony could foreshadow an ugly trial ahead in his own legal fight with Jackson's estate.
Getty Images Tohme Tohme and Michael Jackson

Describing the relationship between Michael Jackson’s estate and his ex-manager Tohme Tohme as adversarial is putting it mildly, and that tension was on full display Thursday as he took the stand in a trial over the King of Pop’s taxes.

Tohme, a former Colony Capital consultant, began working with Jackson in 2008 when he coordinated the buyout of a loan on Neverland Ranch. He says Jackson brought him on because of his relationship with Colony CEO Tom Barrack and, as a finder’s fee of sorts, he was to receive 10 percent of the total value of the loan. At the time, he says he was receiving $20,000 a month in consulting fees from Colony — plus a share of the deals in which he was involved.

The $23 million loan buyout allowed Jackson avoid foreclosure on the ranch and sealed Tohme’s position as the entertainer’s manager. Since 2012 he’s been involved in a contentious legal battle with Jackson’s estate over his pay. (More on that later.)

He was called as a witness by the IRS, presumably, to show that Jackson had business suitors in the time leading up to his death despite allegations of child molestation — which the estate claims hurt his brand and diminished the value of licensing his name and image. Tohme specifically mentioned prospects of a “Moonwalker” shoe deal with Nike and a Broadway musical based on Jackson’s songs.

Jackson estate attorney Howard Weitzman pulled no punches during his cross-examination of Tohme, making it quite clear his goal was to impeach him as a witness.

After going through the potential list of deals Tohme had mentioned and pointing out that none had come to fruition, Weitzman turned his attention to a series of documents that suggest Tohme was terminated in the spring of 2009. Tohme claims he worked with Jackson up until his death, but the estate has held that he was fired several months before that.