November 23, 2010


“So many names, so much confusion.
Michael’s great flaw is that he is easily swayed by conmen and charlatans.
He's vulnerable to all kinds of come-ons”
-Roger Friedman


To better understand the intricate machinations against Michael, it helps to delve into his business affairs and colleagues. To sort it out, let’s go back some.


Tommy Mottola, Allen Grubman & David Geffen came as a package. Mottola the music manager, Grubman the music attorney and Geffen the entertainment mogul. Together, they conspired against Walter Yetnikoff so Mottola could succeed his seat. Michael Jackson’s influence over Sony was instrumental in the take-over. In a convoluted turn of events, when he came to power, Mottola conspired against Michael who, in turn, ended Mottola’s 15 year tenure at Sony.

Mottola always had a love for music. Through grade school and junior high, he played the trumpet for the school’s band. Playing it so well, in fact, that he won
a scholarship to a private school. In eighth grade, he stopped playing the trumpet because, he said, “it was not a cool instrument”.  He switched to playing guitar.  At 13, Mottola was the guitarist for a band, called Exotics which played
at beach clubs, churches, weddings and bar mitzvahs. 

Mottola didn’t like school and partied hard. His parents were against the path he was taking so they sent him off to a military academy in New Jersey. He offered a deal to his parents: he'd stay out of trouble if they let him come home. Only after 6 months and 3 episodes of running away, he ended up back home.

While in college, he took acting classes and began dating Lisa Clark, the daughter of ABC Records founder Sam Clark. He played small roles as an extra in about eight films.  His passion was singing. At 17, he had a contract as a singer with CBS’s Epic Records. At 18, Mottola released 2 records: “Woman Without Love” and “Evil Woman”. He recorded under the name T.D. Valentine.

While working with Epic, he befriended Sandy Linzer, a producer & songwriter
who introduced Mottola to a lawyer friend of hers, Allan Grubman.

While promoting his records, Mottola found himself taking a different direction in music industry. He said “The obsession with singing started to wear off. I started to get interested in music publishing”. When he was 20, Mottola took a job at Chappell Music, a publishing giant. At 22, he married Lisa Clark. Mottola spent 8 years learning about production, marketing, and promotion while working at the pop music division of Chappell Music.  After leaving Chappell Music, in 1975, Mottola formed his own management company, Don Tommy Enterprises, which later was renamed Champion Entertainment. 

Mottola and Grubman who became close friends over the years have ambition in common. The duo befriended Walter Yetnikoff, the President of CBS Records.

When Jackson 5 left Motown in 1976, they had signed with CBS Records.  


"Insecurity and vanity made me an easy mark for ass kissers. Enter Tommy Mottola and Allen Grubman.  Mottola and Grubman were like drugs, I could always turn to them to soothe my ego. Mottola was man's man who knew guns, boats and women. Unlike corporate types that bored me to tears, Tommy entertained me with tales from the fast lane. He listened worshippinly as I described the challenges of running my worldwide operation. He lavished praise on my abilities. He made me feel great. I felt like the guy’s brother. In Mottola, I'd find a brother who would take a bullet for me (or so I thought)"
-Walter Yetnikoff, CBS President/ Sony CEO

Sony acquired CBS Records in January 1988 for $2 billion.

A year before Sony’s CBS takeover, Yetnikoff took heat from the media for promoting Mottola to a senior position. “Tommy finally convinced me to appoint him head of the domestic division of CBS Records. The Press screamed that he wasn’t qualified. What the Hell, he was my friend” wrote Yetnikoff in his book.  ‘Walter could have done better by opening the L.A. phone book and choosing at random’ wrote the Press.  Mottola himself admitted that he knew nothing of budgets or board of directors. “It's really only all about music. It’s not like a big rocket scientist kind of philosophy or anything” said Mottola.

Entertainment Industry is packed with lawyers. Many of them don't formally practice law in the conventional sense but their skills in deal-making and contracts makes them an asset. Walter Yetnikoff is a trained lawyer. Mottola took his lawyer friend Allan Grubman to where ever he went. When Yetnikoff brought Tommy Mottola to CBS, Grubman came with the package.

Yetnikoff signed artists, Mottola managed them, Grubman represented them.

“Tommy is extremely smart” Yetnikoff said of Mottola. When Yetnikoff found out just how smart Mottola was, his sovereignty at Sony Empire was brought to an end by the man he mentored and considered a ‘brother’.

Mariah Carey & Tommy Mottola

An 18 year old Mariah Carey was working as a waitress, coat check girl, beauty salon janitor, and part-time backup singer to make ends meet. In 1988, Mariah attended a party hosted by CBS blues artist Brenda Starr. Mariah gave a demo tape to Mottola who listened to the tape in his limo. He knew immediately that he could make her a star. Soon, Mottola started having an extramarital affair with Mariah Carey.  Mottola denied any romance. "With God as my witness, nothing's going on between us” Mottola told the reporters. The relationship was common knowledge at CBS. The extracurricular didn't bother Yetnikoff who awarded Mottola a $3 million bonus after he'd only been on the job a few months.  

John Branca & Michael Jackson

When John Branca started working with Michael in 1980, Michael’s net worth was barely a million dollars. Ten years later, Branca’s negotiating skills increased Michael’s net worth to $300 million.

David Geffen, Michael Jackson & Madonna

Forbes Magazine named David Geffen ‘the richest man in Hollywood’. Geffen had a reputation for being an intuitive show-business genius. He was also arrogant and temperamental. Geffen earned a respectable standing in both music and film world. Michael felt that if he listened to Geffen’s advice, he too, could be a mogul like Geffen. Michael hung unto Geffen’s every word the way he used to hang on to Branca’s. But unlike Branca, Geffen really kissed up to Michael.  

Michael was to deliver ‘Decade’, a greatest Hits album with three to five new songs in August of 1989. Branca had negotiated this deal with CBS for $18 million as an advance and $3 million as a gift to Michael from CBS.

David Geffen talked Michael out of ‘Decade’. Geffen started discussing with Michael his relationship with CBS Records. Geffen convinced Michael that CBS was making more money off of Michael than he was making for himself.  Geffen advised Michael to find a loophole and get out of his CBS contract. Prior to this time, Michael had an outstanding relationship with Walter Yetnikoff. He even invited Walter Yetnikoff to the stage during 1984 Grammy's (0:50).

Geffen owned his own record label (Geffen Records) and he was trying to lure Michael to sign with his own label. Branca advised Michael against leaving CBS. Michael still owed CBS 4 more albums and CBS would sue for the albums owed. Branca and Geffen had a heated argument, Branca told Geffen to mind his own business, Geffen hung up on Branca then called Michael to tell him that the reason why Michael didn’t have a good deal with CBS was because of Branca’s close relationship with the company President, Walter Yetnikoff.

Couple of days later, Branca arranged a meeting with Michael. The meeting didn’t go well. The next day, Branca received a letter, informing him that his services were no longer required by Michael Jackson.

“Michael Jackson first fired Frank Dileo, my former employee and loyal supporter and then fired John Branca, another guy who liked me. Michael’s new lawyer? Allen Grubman” wrote Yetnikoff in his book.

Tommy has always been power-hungry" said Mickey Schulhof, Chairman of Sony Music Entertainment (Mottola boss) in 1991, replaced by Mottola in 1995.  Schulhof knew that a number of industry figures were assisting in Mottola in rising up the chain of command. The most formidable of them was David Geffen, the billionaire record impresario and implacable Yetnikoff foe. Geffen urged Michael Jackson, Yetnikoff's most prized act, to leave CBS. Jackson was unwilling to do that but did drop several key members (*Dileo and Branca) of his entourage closely identified with Yetnikoff. In their place, he installed figures tightly linked to Geffen. Notable among them was an attorney Tommy had recommended to Geffen years before, Allen Grubman. Oblivious to the forces which were gathering against him, in June 1990 Yetnikoff authorised a deal for Mottola to receive an estimated 15 million over the next 5 years, not including annual bonuses. Mottola meanwhile was doing some negotiating of his own.

“Grubman put together a new contract for Michael that I considered outrageous. It gave him his own label with the promise to earn his regular high-share royalties in addition to the half the profits from his label.

Yetnikoff: In my legal opinion, profits plus royalties violates other artists

Mottola: No it doesn’t. His income from the label is separate

Yetnikoff: Bullshit, any accountant worth his salt will see it as a disguised-royalty. [Bruce] Springsteen’s people will go crazy

Mottola: I am giving Springsteen a full royalty rate on CDs

Yetnikoff: What! Do it with Springsteen and you will have Billy Joel’s people up your ass. You are losing it Tommy

Mottola: I am not the one losing it, Walter

Yetnikoff: What if I call Michael and tell him that If his lawyers insists on this unreasonable deal, I will put out a quickie CD of his greatest Hits! There is he wants less right now than a greatest hits collection and we have all the necessary rights!

Michael Jackson who was always a magnet for conmen in a mile of his radius was being used by executors playing office politics. Michael’s $1 Billion Contract with Sony in 1991 came hard on the heels of Tommy Mottola convincing Michael to side with him against Walter Yetnikoff. 

Mottola had cajoled Bruce Springsteen with a full royalty rate on CDs. Michael was swayed with an attractive contract that promised not only financial upgrade but also his true passion: movies.  Under the terms of his deal, Michael would star in his first full-length feature film, produced by Sony’s Columbia Pictures. The new contract also promised Michael a new record label, Nation Records. "He will be developing young and budding talent and he will be the magnet to attract superstars to leave their current recording company to come to Sony" said Tommy Mottola.

The New York Times weighed in with a withering assessment of Mottola in December 1991, headlined ‘Sony Music’s Big Spender’. The story lambasted Mottola for signing a series of "rich unprecedented deals”.

 “Smelling blood in the water, the media sharks flashed their teeth. Billboard quoted Jon Landau (*Bruce Springsteen manager). He said that my relationship with him and Springsteen has ended. Clearly, Landau had been talking to Geffen, Geffen had been talking to Grubman and Grubman had been talking to Mottola. The Press made it look like my 2 biggest artists, Michael and Springsteen were deserting me. Were they? All I had to do was to call them. Why didn’t I? I was afraid they wouldn’t take my calls. I Was afraid that they had, in fact, transferred their loyalties to Geffen, Grubman and Mottola. I was afraid of the truth.”

“I was slowly getting the idea that Mottola was getting ready to run me out. Every time Tommy came near my dog, a gentle spirit, the dog growled like the devil himself was approaching. It was time to have it out with Tommy. I had made a place for him, just as I had make a place for Grubman, in the highest of the music business. He owed me. The very least he owed me the truth about his back-biting. I had to talk to Mottola but Mottola was nowhere to be found. Someone said he was sailing in his boat around Hamptons. I had a friend who had a boat who agreed to help me find Mottola. I spent all day, searching for Mottola’s boat. What was in my head? If I found him what would I do? Cajole him? Kill him? Force him to tell me the truth? Get him to confess his betrayal? I never found the boat. On Monday morning, I was called into Norio Ogha’s office.”

“Norio Ogha, the man I made wealthy gave me the news standing up. ‘The board of directors has met and decided that you should take a sabbatical’ He didn’t shake my hand, he didn’t use the work ‘fired’, he simply vanished. ‘Please exit through the side door’ a security guard told me. Later I learned that in the adjoining room, Ogha was meeting with Mottola, already planning the new regime” -Walter Yetnikoff

Grubman convinced Michael Jackson to support Mottola in his battle to take over the Walter Yetnikoff’s job. It was Jackson's support for Mottola that swayed Sony's decision to take Mottola over Yetnikoff” -Lynton Guest

When he came to power, Mottola, far from redeeming his promises to give Michael’s career a fresh impetus, abandoned him in favor of new artists. With his eyes on Michael’s music publishing Catalogs, Mottola conspired against Michael.

Mottola felt he had to prove himself as an executive who could outdo Yetnikoff. Mottola determined that the company had 2 major flaws: 1- It lacked development of new artists, remaining anchored by great artists, but nevertheless, past their prime 2- Company’s domestic and International arms weren’t operating as a coherent unit.

Mottola became completely immersed in Mariah Carey’s career, acting as her manager, assigning his business affiliations to advance her professional life.  

In June 1993, Mottola married Mariah Carey. Mariah’s career was soaring, and Mottola was guiding it every step of the way. He approved her material, oversaw her arrangements, checked her promotion and assigned Allen Grubman as her attorney. "Allen Grubman is my best friend in the world. End of subject. Over and out" Mottola said in response to questions about the conflict of interest.

Contrary to popular belief amongst fans, sabotage against Michael by his business partner, Sony, started way before the Invincible album.  Bear in mind that Michael isn’t just another artist for Sony, Michael has % 50 stake in Sony/ATV, they are business partners.  Mottola’s love of Music Publishing started only when he was 20. Mottola saw in Michael a great artist yet an artist past his prime. What made Michael an important commodity to Sony was his back catalog and his %50 share in Sony /ATV Catalog. 

"On July 11, 1993, I was told about a case to discredit Michael Jackson. It was clear to see that this was in the planning stages for some time. My boss said the case was to prove MJ was a ‘chicken hawk’ (*slang for child molester) and was contributing to the delinquency of a minor" -A Private Investigator on conspiracy against MJ

After 1993 child molestation allegation, Michael’s album sales dropped. He called Michael Schulhof to lament that he wasn't to blame for the drop in album sales but it was Mottola’s outsize focus to promote Mariah Carey.

The decisions that appears mundane to fans were strategically planned by executors of Sony, intended to sabotage Michael’s career thus, his finances.


“Sony, after the Chandler affair, wanted to release a single CD of Jackson’s greatest Hits (HIStory) while Jackson insisted a batch of new songs. The double CD was the messy result. It did, however, alert the powers that be at Sony, led by Tommy Mottola, to the fact that they could use contractual requirements for their own purposes, in the process, making some decisions which, on the face of it, appear totally bizarre."

"In 1997, only two years after ‘HIStory’, Sony released a strange hybrid CD titled ‘Blood On The Dance Floor- HIStory In The Mix”. Before the recording started, Sony invoked its right to 10 new songs. Jackson didn’t agree with Sony’s interpretation of their contract. After intense negotiations, a compromise was reached which resulted a CD containing 5 new songs plus 8 remixes of tracks from ‘HIStory’. What seems to be a normal negotiation process was actually part of a campaign to manipulate Jackson in the interest of Sony. Usually, the interest of the artist and the record label coincide. In the case of Jackson and Sony, they were now massively divergent. Jackson was experiencing a different attitude from his record company that he had enjoyed in the past."

"Sony understood perfectly that Jackson would refuse to do something but they would a compromise. Jackson would see this as a victory since what he had originally demanded was modified after the singer’s opposition. So when 5 new songs and 8 remixes were agreed for ‘Blood On The Dance Floor’ Jackson thought he had outsmarted the suits. It was huge mistake. To release a CD with only 5 songs coupled with remixes of his album released only 2 years prior confused the record buying public. It was half-assed Michael Jackson, as If he could be bothered to produce a whole new CD."

"None of this, of course, was made public. Sony had to be seen to be supporting Jackson. Record labels owe the duty of care to artists. They should conduct their business properly, otherwise they could be in the breach of contract. They should certainly not attempt to sabotage the career of one of their artists."

"Consequently, the world sale of the CD were a pathetic 4 million, real disaster for Michael Jackson. It is a failure that boosted Sony of their strategy and convinced them that they are on the right track. Jackson moaned incessantly to Tommy Mottola but his complaints were seen as sour grapes. All the blame for the fiasco was poured onto Jackson’s head."

“Randy Taraborelli wrote that 'After Blood On The Dance Floor' disappointed, he was never a company priority. Far from being surprised by the sales, Sony engineered the outcome from the outset. Taraborelli might be right in the conventional sense when he states that Michael Jackson was never a high priority but in fact, Jackson remained a high priority for Sony. Not to help sell records but to get rid of the singer while gaining control of his back catalog and more importantly, acquiring Sony/ATV. To achieve this objective, Jackson had to fail in a way that enabled Sony to appear blameless” -Lynton Guest


'The Trials and tribulations of Michael Jackson' by Lynton Guest
'Howling At the Moon' by Walter Yetnikoff
'The Gloves Come Off' by Mitchell Fink & Lauren Ruben
'Michael Jackson: The Magic and The Madness' by Randy Taraborelli


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