July 2, 2009 -- It may have come as a surprise to some that Diana Ross was mentioned in Michael Jackson's will as a secondary caregiver to his three children, but her inclusion was not unexpected to those who had tracked their longstanding relationship, dating back to Jackson's early childhood.
In his will, Jackson specified that if his mother Katherine Jackson, his first choice to become guardian for his three young children, died before he did, then he named Ross to take custody of the kids.
Jackson's three children, Michael Joseph Jr., 12; Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, 11; and Prince Michael Jackson II, 7, known as Blanket, have been staying with their grandmother Katherine at the family compound in Encino, Calif., since Jackson's death last Thursday.
Jackson knew Ross from the time he was 9 years old, and their relationship was one of the most important in his life. He idolized Ross, and some have said he even tried to emulate her.
"Raising children was the most important role Michael Jackson believed he had, and to put down that Diana Ross would replace his mom, you can't have any greater honor," said Stacy Phillips, a family attorney not working for the Jacksons.
Ross Jackon's Idol
Over the years, Jackson has had his obsessions with "it girls," including Elizabeth Taylor, Brooke Shields and Princess Diana. But Ross was always his idol. The two became close after Jackson signed on with Motown as a child.
When Jackson made his solo debut in 1971, he did it on one of Ross' TV specials.
In a 1981 Diana Ross TV special, Ross brought out Jackson's shy demeanor, teasing him about being "very sexy."
"You are embarrassing me," he replied, laughing.
They were so close, in fact, that some have even speculated that Jackson's plastic surgeries were done to make him look like Ross.
"Whether that was purposeful on his part has never been explained by M.J. when he was alive or anyone close to him. Certainly the parallel in their appearance was marked," said J.D. Heyman, assistant managing editor of People magazine.
Ross has yet to speak publicly on the death of her good friend, but she issued a statement shortly after he died.
"I can't stop crying, this is too sudden and shocking. I am unable to imagine this," she said. "My heart is hurting. I am in prayer for his kids and the family."
Michael Jackson and Diana Ross: A Long History
Jackson's infatuation with Ross began when they first met at Motown. She was the glamorous star of the Supremes, he was a 9-year-old performing prodigy.
Though it's been said that she discovered Jackson and his brothers, the Jackson 5, it was actually Gladys Knight and the Pips, another Motown act, who first saw them perform at the Regal Theater in Chicago and tried to get them an audition with Motown founder Berry Gordy. Motown artist Bobby Taylor got them the audition. But when the press release announcing the hot new group came out in 1969, it said Ross, the label's biggest star, had discovered the group while on tour.
Jackson played along with it. In an interview at the age of 10, he said, "I thought I was going to be an old man before being discovered, but along came Miss Diana Ross to save my career."
Jackson idolized Ross, according to biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, who has written books about both superstars.
In his book, "Call Me Miss Ross," he wrote that Ross said, "I was older. He kind of idolized me and wanted to sing like me."
Some would say he even wanted to be her.
Taraborrelli wrote about one instance in 1986, when Jackson visited Ross backstage at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. When she returned to her dressing room, Jackson was putting on her makeup, transforming himself into Ross.
The writer also said Jackson once demanded that a chauffeur driving him around Beverly Hills that he address him as "Miss Ross."
In his autobiography "Moonwalk," Jackson called Ross "my mother, my lover and my sister all rolled into one."
Taraborrelli has said there was no sexual relationship between the two.
Nonetheless, in "Call Me Miss Ross," Taraborrelli wrote that Jackson was heartbroken when Ross got married for the second time to Norwegian multimillionaire Arne Naess. Jackson did not attend the wedding, telling Taraborrelli, "I was jealous, because I've always loved Diana Ross and always will."
Ross may have felt more motherly toward him. When Jackson moved to Los Angeles at the age of 9 to continue his recording career with Motown, he lived with Ross for a time.
The two stars shared a lot in common. Both started at Motown and became worldwide pop stars. Both earned diva reputations for their outsized lifestyles. And both were accused of selling out and turning their backs on their black heritage.
When Jackson collapsed during a rehearsal for a cable TV concert in 1995, Ross rushed to his bedside at a hospital in New York.
Now Ross, like the rest of the world, is left to mourn the fiercely private man as speculation continues about the cause of his death and his funeral.
Inside the Mansion Where Jackson Died
Jackson's family said Wednesday that the singer's body will not be laid in state at Neverland Ranch, where he lived for over a decade and which became synonymous with the singer's eccentricities.
Ending days of speculation about where the memorial service would be held for the pop icon, who died June 25 of apparent cardiac arrest, a Jackson family spokesman said the singer would not be memorialized at the 2,800-acre compound.
"Contrary to previous news reports, the Jackson family is officially stating that there will be no public or private viewing at Neverland. Plans are under way regarding a public memorial for Michael Jackson, and we will announce those plans shortly," said Jackson family spokesman Ken Sunshine in a statement.
Sources have told ABC News that the memorial will be in Los Angeles next week, possibly at the Staples Center. Wednesday's statement included no details about the location or date of the event.
Jackson hadn't lived at Neverland since 2005. He left following his acquittal in a child molestation trial, saying the property -- once replete with a zoo and amusement park -- no longer felt like home.
He died at a posh, rented mansion in L.A.'s exclusive Holmby Hills neighborhood that, at times, has been home to stars including Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Sonny and Cher and the man whose life and death is drawing eerie parallels to Jackson's -- Elvis.
At 17,000 square feet, the three-story, French-style mansion boasts seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms and a seven-car garage.
Once on the market for $30 million, the home also features African walnut floors, a Russian-inspired home theater and an infinity bathtub with an ornate faucet that spills water from the ceiling.
"This is by far one of the best homes in the area and this is a very high priced neighborhood," Entertainment Studios Chairman and CEO Byron Allen said. "This place was built for royalty."
And it was a place where Jackson felt comfortable after Neverland ranch was raided by authorities after he was charged with molestation in 2003.
"His home was very important to him," Allen said, "because he stayed there quite a bit and he entertained, and it was a place that was truly his palace."
Jackson's family continues to visit the Holmby Hills mansion. La Toya and Janet Jackson were seen leaving shortly after midnight today. And Randy Jackson was still there early this morning.
Taking Over Jackson's Assets
With use of drug and other powerful painkillers swirling around Jackson's death, ABC News has learned that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been asked by police to join the investigation.
Jackson's entire estate will be placed in a trust to be executed by three trusted advisors, the specifics of which may never be made public.
The specifics of how Jackson wanted his estate to be distributed are not included in the 2002 will, but in a separate document overseeing the trust. Jackson mentions his three children by name, but none of the other members of his family are named as beneficiaries.
The will specifies that Rowe has been "intentionally omitted" from receiving anything.
Jackson, 50, who died June 25 of an apparent cardiac arrest in Los Angeles, named John Branca, his attorney, John McLain, a friend and record executive, and Barry Siegel, his accountant, as executors of the Michael Jackson Family Trust.
In 2003 Siegel resigned from his role as trustee, according to a statement issued on behalf of the named trustees.
The documents said Jackson's estate consisted almost entirely of "non-cash, non-liquid assets, including primarily an interest in a catalogue of music royalty rights which is currently being administered by Sony ATV, and the interests of various entities."
Jackson had $567.6 million in assets, including his Neverland Ranch and his share of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalog, which includes the rights to songs by the Beatles, according to the AP.
The AP analysis puts a net value on Jackson's 50 percent stake in the Sony/ATV catalog — his most prized asset — at $390.6 million. The 750,000-song catalog also includes music by Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga and the Jonas Brothers.
By putting the specifics of how he wanted his estate distributed in a trust rather than in the will itself allowed Jackson's wishes to remain private, lawyers said.
"Celebrities typically establish living trusts to avoid probate, which is a very public process," said Andy Katzenstein, a Los Angeles-based estate lawyer.
"In a trust you, the odds are it will never be made public and we'll never what was in it. The will, on the other hand, has to be made public," Katzenstein said.