What is it with Fortress Investment Group and Michael Jackson? Every time the Gloved One gets into trouble, there’s the Publicly Traded One with an open check book.
In 2005, Fortress was instrumental in helping the embattled singer avoid bankruptcy when it purchased $270 million in dubious debt held by Bank of America. Fortress refinanced the loan, backed by Jackson’s 50 percent stake in Sony/ATV Music, the owner of the highly valuable publishing rights to songs by the Beatles, Bob Dylan and others.
Some saw Fortress’ loan as a bet that Jackson would default and cede ownership of the music catalogue to the private investment giant, which listed on the NYSE last year. But before defaulting, Jackson sold an option for part of his ownership in the music to Sony.
Now reports claim that Fortress has struck a confidential deal with Jackson to save him from auctioning off his famed Neverland ranch in Los Olivos, California. The singer reportedly owes $24.5 million on the ranch.
Presumably if Jackson fails to keep up payments to Fortress, the firm will gain ownership of the property, which includes a zoo, bumper cars and a Ferris wheel, among other, mostly juvenile, attractions.
Given the choice between seizing ownership of the rights to “Yesterday” versus the one-time home of Bubbles the chimp and Louie the llama, we have to say that our tastes lie with the former option.