In a strange twist of fate, a New Jersey businessman hit the music world's jackpot — a warehouse stuffed with the King of Pop's personal belongings — and he got it for a song.
Henry Vaccaro said he never expected to get caught up in a legal battle with Michael Jackson's family. But he did, and in the end, he wound up with Jackson memorabilia that could be worth a small fortune.
Vaccaro says his story with the Jackson family began back in 1993, when, he says, the Jackson family failed to follow through on a deal to buy Vaccaro's guitar company.
Vaccaro said the family never paid him what they owed, and after years in the courtroom, the items of memorabilia became the focus of the legal drama.
Vaccaro says he managed to get the entire warehoused Jackson collection — thousands of items — after the Jackson family failed to pay a $60,000 bill for the storage of the items.
Vaccaro said he picked up the bill, and the case with the Jackson family was settled as he became the owner of the family's memorabilia.
The deal of a lifetime left a complete stranger owning the Jackson family's personal history.
‘Largest Private Collection’
"It's pretty big. It's the largest private collection in the world of Michael Jackson and Jackson family memorabilia," Vaccaro said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "Well, you know, it's crazy … how they could let a complete stranger get all their personal possessions?"
Vaccaro's enormous collection had been displayed in a 6,000-square-foot section of a 50,000-square-foot warehouse. But the collection — which was only seen by outsiders on jacksonvault.com, a pay-per-view Web site — is on its way out of the United States, according to Vaccaro.
The collection has been sold to a mysterious overseas buyer, and will be shipped out of the country in just a matter of days
Why didn't Michael Jackson, the wealthiest and most famous member of the musical family, step in and stop this? According to the pop star's spokesperson, Michael Jackson was shocked to find out that the warehouse contained some of his most personal items.
Jackson says he only gave his family permission to use this memorabilia for a theme restaurant they supposedly planned on opening.
Jackson wasn't directly involved in this legal battle, and he says he now wants to buy back his family's treasured possessions, according to his spokesperson.
Vaccaro says the collection includes Jackson family costumes, including one of Michael Jackson's earliest stage costumes with his name handwritten on the inside label. Vaccaro also has a photo of a young Jackson wearing that very costume.
Surprising and Private Items
While Vaccaro says he was excited to see the costumes and the gold and platinum records that came with the collection, he says he was surprised by the inclusion of very personal items — such as sketches, notes and a medical contract for surgery supposedly performed on Janet Jackson's nose.
"Yes, we have that contract … and I think Michael paid for the first plastic surgery," Vaccaro said.
Vaccaro said he also found another nose-related item in the collection — a sketchbook that contained several drawings of noses of various shapes and sizes.
Vaccaro also revealed sketches that he claims were signed by Michael Jackson. One is a sketch of a boy, titled "Little Boy 1994"; another is a sketch of Charlie Chaplin.
ABCNEWS checked with some handwriting experts on the signatures on some of the items. Not all of them agreed on whether Michael Jackson signed some of the items.
Vaccaro said he was also surprised by personal letters sent by the Jackson parents. "A lot of intimate letters going back and forth," Vaccaro said. "I mean, you know, there's a letter from Joe Jackson to the producers of the Victory Tour book, where he approved the photographs of his children, but he wanted their skin tones to be 20 to 30 percent lighter in the finished product. That surprised me.
"There's also a letter from Mrs. Jackson complaining to the Jehovah's Witness Fellowship, because evidently they must have expelled Michael, and you know, she's really giving them hell," Vaccaro said.
The New Jersey businessman says Michael Jackson's legal problems only increased the value of the collection.
"It bought attention back to it because the initial sale had fallen apart, and then it was resurrected with his problems," Vaccaro said.
Jackson was charged in December with seven counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 and two counts of giving the child an "intoxicating agent," reportedly wine, between Feb. 7 and March 10, 2003. Jackson has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Vaccaro wouldn't say what his buyer paid for the collection, but he told ABCNEWS that he did very well.
ABCNEWS' Eric Avram and Gary Wynn contributed to this Good Morning America report.