"He is having a mental breakdown," AEG Live CEO Tim Leiweke wrote
CFO: "Is it 'pre-show nerves' bad or 'get a straight jacket/call our insurance carrier' bad?"
At his deposition, Leiweke said he didn't know if "breakdown" referred to Jackson
Jackson's mother and children are suing the concert promoter for liability in his death
A top executive at AEG Live’s parent company asked days before Michael Jackson’s death if the singer was having big problems – enough to warrant a straitjacket, according to testimony from Jackson’s wrongful death trial.
CNN obtained the video testimony played for jurors this week at the trial, which is in its seventh week in Los Angeles.
“Trouble with MJ. Big trouble,” AEG CEO Tim Leiweke wrote to AEG Chief Financial Officer Dan Beckerman on the night of June 20, 2009. “He is having a mental breakdown.”
Beckerman, who became AEG’s CEO after Leiweke left this year, replied: “I figured something might be wrong given how jittery Randy has been this week. Is it ‘pre-show nerves’ bad or ‘get a straight jacket/call our insurance carrier’ bad?”
The reply was referring to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips.
On June 25, Jackson died from what a coroner ruled was an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol administered by Dr. Conrad Murray. Two weeks after that, Jackson’s “This Is It” comeback tour, produced and promoted by AEG Live, had been set to launch in London.
Jackson’s mother and three children are suing AEG Live, the concert promotion branch of AEG, arguing the company is liable for his death because it negligently hired, retained or supervised Murray. They say executives pressured Jackson to attend rehearsals despite his deteriorating health and ignored red flags that should have warned them about the dangers posed by Murray.
AEG Live lawyers say that it was Jackson who chose and controlled Murray and that company executives had no way of knowing he was giving Jackson nightly infusions of propofol to treat his insomnia.
The Leiweke-Beckerman e-mail exchange followed an “intervention” that Phillips held at Jackson’s home to find out what was wrong with the singer, according to testimony.
Leiweke forwarded to Beckerman an e-mail chain between Phillips, show director Kenny Ortega and others involved in the production.
Production manager John “Bugzee” Houghdahl started the exchange about Jackson, which he titled “trouble at the Front.”
“I have watched him deteriorate in front of my eyes over the last 8 weeks. He was able to do multiple 360 spins back in April. He’d fall on his ass if he tried now,” Houghdahl wrote about Jackson.
AEG’s lawyer showed jurors a clip Thursday of Jackson performing several 360-degree spins while rehearsing his song “Billie Jean.” It was not clear what day it was recorded.
Ortega had sent Jackson home from a rehearsal the night of June 19, 2009 because of his strange behavior.
“He was a basket case and Kenny was concerned he would embarrass himself on stage, or worse yet – get hurt,” Houghdahl wrote. “The company is rehearsing right now, but the DOUBT is pervasive.”
Jackson lawyer Kevin Boyle asked Leiweke during his deposition why he wrote to Beckerman that there was “big trouble” with Michael Jackson.
“We were aware that he had missed several rehearsals,” Leiweke said.
He said he couldn’t remember if he was referring to Jackson or Phillips when he wrote to Beckerman that “He is having a mental breakdown.”
In a video of his deposition played for jurors, Beckerman said: “I was just trying to understand: Is it stage fright and the show will go on, or is it, ‘I can’t go through this; I’m not going to step on stage’?”
Jackson stepped on stage just two more times in his life after that day. His rehearsals at the Staples Center on June 23 and 24 were filmed and became the basis for the “This Is It” documentary of his last months.