Michael Jackson did not pay some of his employees at his Neverland ranch last week, ABC News has been told, and sources say an emergency financial meeting involving the "King of Pop's" family was called.
On the surface, everything appears normal at Jackson's Neverland ranch, but sources told ABC News that Jackson missed last week's payroll for some of his employees. His alleged financial woes have caused tension in his family, sources told ABC News. Jackson's attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., told jurors in opening statements that the singer does not pay close attention to his finances, and sources said Jackson long ago turned over his financial matters to his younger brother Randy -- whom some have blamed for Jackson's cash shortfall.
Sources told ABC News the failure to pay some Neverland employees prompted an emergency financial meeting that included Jackson, his advisers and Randy Jackson via phone. The meeting ended, sources told ABC News, with Randy Jackson promising to sort matters out shortly.
In a statement to ABC News, Jackson spokeswoman Raymone Bain said, "This report is false and overstated. Mr. Jackson's employees have been with him for a very long time and are compensated for their work."
Bain also said there was no division in the Jackson family.
"In addition, the Jackson family has never severed its ties," Bain said. "Everyone is doing their job and supports each other. Michael has professional accountants who handle his finances."
Jackson is standing trial for allegedly molesting a now-15-year-old boy who spent time at his Neverland ranch. The boy, who was 13 at the time of the alleged molestation, is the cancer survivor who appeared with the singer in the 2003 British documentary "Living With Michael Jackson." Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges that include felony conspiracy with 28 overt acts involving child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.
Santa Barbara County, Calif., prosecutors have made Jackson's finances an issue at trial. Prosecutor Tom Sneddon told jurors in opening statements that Jackson's career had stalled, leading to financial trouble, and suggested the singer was trying to use the alleged victim to show his benevolence to the downtrodden when he appeared with the boy in "Living With Michael Jackson."
The prosecution has argued that the bad press that followed the broadcast of the documentary -- particularly when Jackson talked about his fondness for having innocent sleepovers with children at Neverland and said, while holding hands with his accuser, "Why can't you share your bed? The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone." -- caused the singer to panic.
That, prosecutors argue, led Jackson to allegedly hold his alleged victim and his family virtually hostage at Neverland and force them to say complimentary things about him in a video he made to counter the British documentary. One prosecutor has claimed in court documents that Jackson is well over $275 million in debt, a claim the defense has denied.
Jackson's alleged financial woes paint a contrasting portrait of the star who was seen on a lavish shopping spree at a Las Vegas mall in "Living With Michael Jackson." Documents obtained exclusively by ABC News show that Jackson's net worth two years ago was approximately $374 million.