LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A top AEG executive took the stand Tuesday in the wrongful death lawsuit against the entertainment giant, as Jackson family attorneys presented emails in which he called Michael Jackson “lazy” and suggested that AEG executives misrepresent how much the singer would earn from his planned comeback tour.
AEG Live co-CEO Paul Gongaware was called to testify by Jackson family attorneys, who are trying to convince the jury AEG Live executives were determined to get Jackson under contract.
Gongaware testified that he believed Jackson was the best performer of his era, and potentially of all time.
“To get Michael Jackson you weren’t always honest with him were you sir?” Lead attorney Brian Panish asked.
“I believe I was honest,” Gongaware said.
Panish then produced a 2008 email exchange between Gongaware and AEG CEO Randy Phillips. In the email, Gongaware said Jackson could expect to net $132 million from the “This Is It” tour.
“It’s a big number, but this is not a number MJ will want to hear. He thinks he is so much bigger than that,” Gongaware said in the email.
“His gross will approach half a billion dollars,” the email goes on to say. “Maybe gross is a better number to throw around if we need to use numbers with Mikey listening.”
“Were you making a plan to fool Michael into thinking he was going to make more money than he really was on the tour?” Panish asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t recall writing this email,” Gongaware said.
Panish also presented an email in which the AEG co-CEO discussed a planned press conference in London announcing the planned comeback tour.
“We cannot be forced into stopping this, which MJ will try to do because he is lazy and constantly changes his mind to fit his immediate wants,” Gongaware wrote.
“If Michael had not been at the press conference it would have cost him money,” Gongaware testified. “He didn’t like to rehearse. He didn’t like to do these kinds of things.”
Gongaware is expected to take the stand again Wednesday. The trial is expected to last four months before the case goes to the jury.