Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Heal the World Foundation - more, or less, than meets the eye?

Back on June 26, I wrote a post about the death of Michael Jackson entitled Michael Jackson - more, or less, than meets the eye? One of the things that I touched upon was Jackson's charitable work. In the course of the post, I wrote the following:

The chief example of Jackson's potential is the Heal the World Foundation, the charity that Jackson created.

I then quoted extensively from the "About Us" page for the Heal the World Foundation. Here is part of what I quoted at the time:

Mr. Jackson officially founded HTWF in 1992, forming the nonprofit, however, the heart of his charity, healing the world, one person at a time, was Mr. Jackson's focus, even before the papers were signed and the foundation formalized, he was serving his fellow man.

I also happened to quote this:

From 2002-2008 the foundation was fledgling, along with its founder and lost its tax exempt status while reorganizing its focus and upper management....

In 2008 based on the demand from our supporters and the devotion of our volunteers, we restructured the charity under a new board of Directors and regained our tax exempt status. However, the charitable giving and work of HTWF was always moving forward and never ceased.

One man can do his part to HEAL THE WORLD and Mr. Jackson did take a step out of the charity for awhile as was necessary and understandable, but will never abandoned HTWF, nor his desire to serve his fellow man. When it is time, Mr. Jackson will lead HTWF into this generation and all generations to come.

Incidentally, back in June I noted that the Heal the World Foundation would probably edit that text very shortly. As of September 30, it still hasn't. I'm not exactly sure that Mr. Jackson will be leading HTWF into any generation in the future.

But, according to the Inquisitr, the Heal the World Foundation has bigger problems than a webmaster who is asleep at the wheel. It's now in trouble with Michael Jackson's estate:

Michael Jackson’s estate has sued a charity foundation for allegedly using his name and likeness without permission. Heal the World Foundation is being accused of unfair competition, trademark infringement and other violations.

The Inquisitr post also states:

The singer’s own Heal the World foundation, which he formed in 1992, is no longer active.

Well, THAT'S a little muddy. If you believe the Heal the World Foundation, the current entity is a continuation of the original entity, fully endorsed by Jackson. But if you believe John Branca and John McClain, the administrators for Jackson's estate, the new Heal the World Foundation is completely unauthorized.

I couldn't find any coverage that explicitly stated who was being sued, but in the process of looking, I discovered why the page that I referenced in June was never updated. It's apparently no longer the official website. That honor now belongs to And this site's "About" page lists the following officers:

Melissa Johnson, President
Mel Wilson, Vice President
Sandhya Deepak, Secretary
Mark Gainford, Director of Operations
Camilla Sayf, Director of International Relations
Michael Jackson, President Emeritus

Incidentally, the section on Jackson STILL includes the following language:

When it is time, Mr. Jackson will lead HTWF into this generation and all generations to come.

Not if Branca and McClain have anything to say about it.

From all outside appearances, Melissa Johnson started up the new foundation - I'm still not sure whether she had any position of authority in the old one - and Michael Jackson, who had obviously been undergoing some personal problems over the last years of his life, never got around to formally blessing her activities, or alternatively telling her to cease and desist. Now Branca and McClain, charged with protecting Jackson's assets, are going after anyone who doesn't have an ironclad claim of permission to engage in Jackson-related activities.

You'll recall that Branca and McClain already argued that Katherine Jackson had no valid claim to administer the estate. And if you're going to deny interests to a guy's mother, you'll do anything.

And they should. Branca and McClain were not appointed the world or anything. Branca and McClain were apointed to maximize the financial value of the deceased's assets.

If anyone wonders why some artists make more money when they're dead than they did when they were living, it's because the Brancas and McClains of the world can do their job, unfettered by hangers-on and by the artist him/herself. Brand managers don't care whether the brand's brother has money for groceries.

(Picture source, license)
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