October 25, 2020

Promoter Ignored Ill Singer, Jackson Family Lawyers Say

Lawyers for Jackson’s mother and three children say they believe that the messages show that AEG Live, the promoter of the concerts, ignored warnings of the star’s bad health and were negligent in the hiring and supervising of Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray.

The promoter contends that Jackson himself hired Dr. Murray. The trial, now in its sixth week, continued on Wednesday with Randy Phillips, AEG Live’s chief executive, sparring with Jackson’s lawyers in what Mr. Phillips called a “game of gotcha.”

Early testimony in the trial focused on reports of Jackson’s failing health from some of his longtime collaborators. But as several AEG executives have been called to the stand in recent days, lawyers for both sides have delved into the communication behind the scenes at the company.

The e-mails offer a glimpse into how business was conducted around Jackson, with huge sums of money at risk and layers of security guards, assistants and other intermediaries separating the singer from everyone else.

In a message sent six days before Jackson died, Kenny Ortega, the director of the concerts, complained to Mr. Phillips that while four security guards waited outside Jackson’s door as Jackson sat with fatigue and a “terrible case of the chills,” no one offered him a cup of hot tea.

In other messages — some with subject lines like “Trouble at the Front” — AEG employees called Jackson a “basket case” and said he was unable to hold a knife and fork. Some expressed doubt that Jackson was capable of performing the planned 50 concerts in London.

Paul Gongaware, AEG’s main supervisor for the shows, was asked by the Jacksons’ lawyer, Brian J. Panish, whether the e-mails caused him any concern.

“No, not particularly,” Mr. Gongaware replied. “I didn’t have a particular concern.”

Lawyers for the Jacksons have said that they may seek more than $5 billion in damages, based on estimates of Jackson’s earning potential had he lived. AEG Live is part of a sports and entertainment group controlled by the billionaire Philip Anschutz.

The messages also reveal how differently Jackson was handled than almost any other figure in the business, both for his status as a top star and his reputation as a mercurial talent who needed special attention.

“The problem with Michael Jackson, and probably a lot of other major stars, is that there’s no one in their life who can tell them no,” Gary Bongiovanni, the editor of Pollstar, a concert industry trade publication, said in an interview. “If they do, they disappear.”

At the trial, Jackson family lawyers also challenged the AEG witnesses’ occasionally spotty memories. Over six days on the stand, Mr. Gongaware repeatedly said that he could not remember e-mails, including one in which he wrote of Dr. Murray, “We want to remind him that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary.”

Some of the most heated questioning in the trial has been of Mr. Phillips. After being called to the stand on Tuesday afternoon, he was asked by Mr. Panish whether he believed the case was a “baseless shakedown” of AEG Live by the Jackson family.

“Yes,” he replied, adding: “I wish you would stop calling it a baseless shakedown because it’s so derogatory.”

A central question in the case is whether AEG or Jackson hired Dr. Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and is serving a four-year prison sentence. Dr. Murray’s contract was not signed by all parties, and while AEG had agreed to pay the doctor $150,000 a month for his services, the company has said that the fee was to have been an advance on Jackson’s earnings from the shows.

A sad aura fell over the proceedings early Wednesday when it was learned that Paris Jackson, the singer’s 15-year-old daughter, had been rushed to the hospital in connection with a possible suicide attempt. One member of the Jackson legal team wept in the courtroom once the news came during a break in the hearing.

Outside the court, reporters flocked around Marvin S. Putnam, a lawyer for AEG, who said he could not speculate about Ms. Jackson. “It’s horrible to hear,” he said. “As Mr. Phillips rightly said on the stand yesterday, this entire thing is incredibly tragic.”

Jens Erik Gould and Rebecca Fairley Raney contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/06/business/media/promoter-ignored-ill-singer-jackson-family-lawyers-say.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Arts & Leisure: ‘Margin Call,’ From J. C. Chandor, Looks at Wall Street

I happened to be there that morning in 2008, not as a banker but a trespasser: a reporter covering Wall Street, I had sneaked into the building with the help of a trusted source. As I avoided security guards and surreptitiously filed reports from a men’s-room stall, what struck me most was the absence of panic, the strange stillness that seemed to permeate the place: the melancholy silence of a once-great global corporation staring into the void.

Wall Street movies, which must find entertainment in ticker symbols and balance sheets, tend to fall somewhat short of Wall Street reality, where millions of dollars can be won and lost with all the pomp of a mouse click. Filmmakers like Oliver Stone and others have tried to inject a palpable sense of the underlying stakes. Think of the mano a mano Blue Star Airlines fight in Mr. Stone’s “Wall Street,” the glamorous merger in “Working Girl,” or the commodities frenzy at the end of “Trading Places.”

Then there’s the new film “Margin Call,” which recounts 24 hours in the life (and near death) of an unnamed firm facing a Lehman-like crisis. It may be one of the quietest films about Wall Street ever made.

Its showdowns take place not on Hamptons estates or at motorcycle races but in sterile boardrooms, where lives and careers are upended in muted conversation. It forgoes screaming-on-the-phone scenes for coolly lighted images of traders calmly working their desks. Gordon Gekko, this is not. And that’s fine with J. C. Chandor, the film’s first-time writer and director, who was never aiming for the master-of-the-universe approach.

“You walk onto most trading floors, and the more tense things get, the quieter they become,” Mr. Chandor said over lunch the other day. Pausing for a laugh, he added later: “It is sort of a challenge! It’s not very exciting visually, a bunch of people stressing out.”

“Margin Call,” which Mr. Chandor, 37, wrote in the days after Lehman failed, was an effort to understand the human side of a financial crisis, or as he put it, “the decision-making process that got us into this mess.” The idea was to avoid oversimplification. “Everything in my gut said don’t lie here,” he said. At the same time, he told himself, “Don’t blow this up into something that it isn’t.”

Other cinematic takes on the financial crisis have aimed for grander themes. Mr. Stone made “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps” as a morality tale, pitting Good against Gekko. Like the original “Wall Street,” with its pro-labor overtones, it also served as something of a liberal manifesto against the evils of unchecked capitalism and consumption. The more recent “Too Big to Fail,” an adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s play-by-play account of the Lehman collapse, tried to make an action hero of Henry M. Paulson, the former treasury secretary — perhaps the ultimate in Hollywood fantasy.

Mr. Chandor said his approach “doesn’t mean there isn’t a great truth” to those other films. “But they are a little bit amped up.”

In its attention to human fears and foibles, “Margin Call” resembles a higher-end version of “Boiler Room,” also a low-budget Wall Street film, but one set in the unsavory world of penny stocks. Yet Ben Younger, that film’s writer and director, laughed at the idea of another stock-market-related film.

“I’m frankly surprised they’re still making them,” Mr. Younger said. “Between ‘Wall Street,’ ‘Boiler Room,’ ‘Wall Street 2’ and then ‘Too Big to Fail,’ I felt that kind of covered every iteration of a finance movie.”

For Mr. Younger, the inevitability of financial folly — and real bankers’ odd veneration of ostensibly evil characters like Gekko, an irony he highlighted in “Boiler Room” — has turned him sour.

“These people keep taking advantage of the system, and we keep getting burned,” he said. “What else is left to explore? It’s in the headlines every day, and nothing else seems to change.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 16, 2011

An article on Page 10 this weekend about the new Wall Street movie “Margin Call” reverses the names of the two characters in the 1987 movie “Wall Street” who slugged each other in a scene in Central Park. It was Michael Douglas’s character, Gordon Gekko, who punched Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=68ff1552acb94715968b35d3737963c7

You’re the Boss: What Do Small-Business Owners Want?

She Owns It

Portraits of women entrepreneurs.

Small-business owners are often described in monolithic terms. But as I rediscovered during a conversation with three women who run companies, their goals and motivations tend to vary. When I met recently with Jessica Johnson, Susan Parker and Carissa Reiniger of our newly formed business group, we talked about their long-term goals. (Alexandra Mayzler, the fourth member of the group, couldn’t make the meeting.) I was particularly curious about their thoughts and attitudes about eventually exiting the companies that they or their families — in the cases of Ms. Johnson and Ms. Parker — built.

Ms. Johnson said that exiting Johnson Security Bureau would feel like walking out on a spouse: “My daily struggle is, how do I keep the business going successfully for as long as possible, while protecting myself and my interest?” She added that she did not want to turn 75 one day and find that she was still trying to find security guards to cover a client at 2 a.m.

She wants to leave the business in the best possible hands, and she hopes to keep it in the family (neither she nor her brother, Charles, a part-owner, currently have children). “African-American family businesses generally don’t make it past the second generation,” said Ms. Johnson, who is a third-generation owner. She said she felt “called to go beyond the third generation to a fourth or fifth if that’s a possibility.”

From an operations standpoint, Ms. Johnson acknowledged that her skill set was limited. For that reason, she said, she knows it will be best, at some point, to bring in an outsider who is subject to family control. “I could have someone who’s not a Johnson running it, but a family member would still have to be involved in setting strategy,” she said.

Ms. Johnson has received offers to buy her company, but, she said, “If you buy the firm, you won’t be a Johnson and it won’t be Johnson Security Bureau.” She doubts that someone outside the family would bring the same level of passion to the business.

Like Ms. Johnson, Ms. Parker said she hoped to keep Bari Jay, the dress manufacturer she owns with her sister, in the family. But she didn’t always feel that way: “I grew up hearing my father say, ‘I don’t want you in this business — it’s horrible.’” Over his lifetime, manufacturing had shifted from domestic to overseas, and he became disenchanted by that change and others.

Upon learning that her father had left her and her sister the business, Ms. Parker was unenthusiastic at first. But her sister Erica was thrilled. Ms. Parker said she decided to “give the business a shot” in order to work with her sister and because it was “the only thing I had from my father.”

At the time, Ms. Parker said, Bari Jay was sinking. But the sisters gave it their best efforts and turned it around, she said, adding that she is now “reaping the rewards of those efforts.” She said she was “shocked” by how much she enjoys the work and likes being in charge. “I didn’t realize I was a little bit of a control freak,” she said, adding that she also appreciates the lifestyle that the successful business provides for her family. For that reason, she and her sister have ensured that their children (each sister has two) will have the opportunity to enter the business.

Still, Ms. Parker is not categorically opposed to selling Bari Jay under the right circumstances. When the sisters first took over, potential buyers approached them, and they listened — “you should always hear what someone has to say,” Ms. Parker said. But no offer has been tempting enough. She sees far more potential in staying, and said it would be “really difficult” to get her to leave the day-to-day operations to someone else at this point.

By contrast, Ms. Reiniger is more than ready to step aside. After a failed exit attempt in March, she is eager to find the best person to build her business, Silver Lining Limited. “I know what I’m good at and what drives me,” she said, “and as much as I care about the mission, running the business has become less interesting to me.”

Ms. Reiniger said she favored new adventures. “Business has become like a game to me,” she said. “To play it in a big way, I need to prove to myself that I can build and exit,” she said. Ms. Reiniger said there’s an “unspoken rule” that entrepreneurs need an exit to validate themselves. “I think it will be fun to see how many of these big-scale entrepreneurial boxes I can check,” she said.

We will continue the conversation in future posts.

You can follow Adriana Gardella on Twitter.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=2be15c8c2ba28cfa1429d8de54540e24

You’re the Boss Blog: What Do Small-Business Owners Want?

She Owns It

Portraits of women entrepreneurs.

Small-business owners are often described in monolithic terms. But as I rediscovered during a conversation with three women who run companies, their goals and motivations tend to vary. When I met recently with Jessica Johnson, Susan Parker and Carissa Reiniger of our newly formed business group, we talked about their long-term goals. (Alexandra Mayzler, the fourth member of the group, couldn’t make the meeting.) I was particularly curious about their thoughts and attitudes about eventually exiting the companies that they or their families — in the cases of Ms. Johnson and Ms. Parker — built.

Ms. Johnson said that exiting Johnson Security Bureau would feel like walking out on a spouse: “My daily struggle is, how do I keep the business going successfully for as long as possible, while protecting myself and my interest?” She added that she did not want to turn 75 one day and find that she was still trying to find security guards to cover a client at 2 a.m.

She wants to leave the business in the best possible hands, and she hopes to keep it in the family (neither she nor her brother, Charles, a part-owner, currently have children). “African-American family businesses generally don’t make it past the second generation,” said Ms. Johnson, who is a third-generation owner. She said she felt “called to go beyond the third generation to a fourth or fifth if that’s a possibility.”

From an operations standpoint, Ms. Johnson acknowledged that her skill set was limited. For that reason, she said, she knows it will be best, at some point, to bring in an outsider who is subject to family control. “I could have someone who’s not a Johnson running it, but a family member would still have to be involved in setting strategy,” she said.

Ms. Johnson has received offers to buy her company, but, she said, “If you buy the firm, you won’t be a Johnson and it won’t be Johnson Security Bureau.” She doubts that someone outside the family would bring the same level of passion to the business.

Like Ms. Johnson, Ms. Parker said she hoped to keep Bari Jay, the dress manufacturer she owns with her sister, in the family. But she didn’t always feel that way: “I grew up hearing my father say, ‘I don’t want you in this business — it’s horrible.’” Over his lifetime, manufacturing had shifted from domestic to overseas, and he became disenchanted by that change and others.

Upon learning that her father had left her and her sister the business, Ms. Parker was unenthusiastic at first. But her sister Erica was thrilled. Ms. Parker said she decided to “give the business a shot” in order to work with her sister and because it was “the only thing I had from my father.”

At the time, Ms. Parker said, Bari Jay was sinking. But the sisters gave it their best efforts and turned it around, she said, adding that she is now “reaping the rewards of those efforts.” She said she was “shocked” by how much she enjoys the work and likes being in charge. “I didn’t realize I was a little bit of a control freak,” she said, adding that she also appreciates the lifestyle that the successful business provides for her family. For that reason, she and her sister have ensured that their children (each sister has two) will have the opportunity to enter the business.

Still, Ms. Parker is not categorically opposed to selling Bari Jay under the right circumstances. When the sisters first took over, potential buyers approached them, and they listened — “you should always hear what someone has to say,” Ms. Parker said. But no offer has been tempting enough. She sees far more potential in staying, and said it would be “really difficult” to get her to leave the day-to-day operations to someone else at this point.

By contrast, Ms. Reiniger is more than ready to step aside. After a failed exit attempt in March, she is eager to find the best person to build her business, Silver Lining Limited. “I know what I’m good at and what drives me,” she said, “and as much as I care about the mission, running the business has become less interesting to me.”

Ms. Reiniger said she favored new adventures. “Business has become like a game to me,” she said. “To play it in a big way, I need to prove to myself that I can build and exit,” she said. Ms. Reiniger said there’s an “unspoken rule” that entrepreneurs need an exit to validate themselves. “I think it will be fun to see how many of these big-scale entrepreneurial boxes I can check,” she said.

We will continue the conversation in future posts.

You can follow Adriana Gardella on Twitter.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=2be15c8c2ba28cfa1429d8de54540e24

Asia-Pacific Governments Play Catch-Up on Minimum Wages

KUALA LUMPUR — Eight hours a day, seven days a week, a 40-year-old woman in this sweltering capital sweeps the footpaths of the public housing development where she lives. In the afternoon, she returns to her room, where she and four of her children, ages 5 to 15, sleep on a double mattress on the floor.

There have been nights when the children have cried after she could not afford to buy food; her monthly salary of 450 ringgit, or $149, often runs out before the next payday. She has already given up one daughter for adoption because she could not support her, and she relies on a church group to provide her with some food staples and help with the children’s school fees.

The woman, who insisted she not be identified for fear of losing her job if her employer found out she had spoken to a reporter, is one of the vast network of working poor in Malaysia. But these days, there is at least the possibility that her life could improve, now that the country has begun talking about a minimum wage.

The government, which recently mandated a base pay for security guards, has pledged to submit broader legislation to Parliament by June. It plans to establish a National Wages Consultative Council to study various options, including a universal minimum wage for all workers in Malaysia.

If the plans bear fruit, Malaysia will join the growing list of Asia-Pacific governments that in the last decade have been playing catch-up with most of the world, either by introducing a minimum wage or by stipulating new forms of minimum wages for specific industries or regions. According to the International Labor Organization, those governments include Indonesia, Mongolia, Vietnam, China and Cambodia.

Hong Kong is among the most recent to join the list. In January, it approved legislation to introduce a minimum hourly wage of 28 Hong Kong dollars, or $3.59. The law is scheduled to go into effect May 1. According to John Ritchotte, a labor specialist at the International Labor Organization’s Asia-Pacific office in Bangkok, Singapore is now the only country in the region without any kind of legislated minimum wage.

There is, to be sure, considerable variation among these locales, in terms of both the amount designated and how many workers receive it. For instance, Mr. Ritchotte said, Vietnam sets minimum wages by region based on the cost of living; Cambodia has a minimum wage for workers only in the garment, textile and shoe industries; and in China, provinces and municipalities, rather than the central government, set the minimums.

In terms of purchasing power, the most recent International Labor Organization figures available showed that Vietnam’s minimum wage provided $85 a month, compared with $148 in Indonesia, $295 in Thailand and $379 in the Philippines.

The motives behind the legislation also vary. “Rapid industrialization, growing inequality and, in some countries, rising labor disputes have led governments to introduce minimum wages,” Mr. Ritchotte wrote in an e-mail. “In other countries, concerns about stagnant wages or the persistence of the working poor lead policy makers to introduce them.”

In Malaysia’s case, the plans reflect the country’s ambitions to move into the ranks of high-income nations by 2020, which would require the average annual income to increase to about 45,300 ringgit from about 24,500 currently.

It has a long way to go. A 2009 study of 1.3 million Malaysian workers by the Ministry of Human Resources showed that almost 34 percent earned less than 700 ringgit a month — below the official poverty line of 720 ringgit. In fact, the new monthly minimum wage for security guards is only 700 ringgit.

“The bottom 40 percent of households have experienced the slowest growth of average income, earning less than 1,500 ringgit per month in 2008,” S. Subramaniam, the Malaysian human resources minister, said in February at a workshop in Kuala Lumpur organized by the government. “Therefore, measures are needed to narrow this income disparity.”

According to Malaysian trade unions, wages in the country have been depressed partly because of the availability of cheap foreign labor from places like Indonesia, the Philippines and India, particularly in construction and manufacturing. It has long been the government’s goal to reduce the dependence on foreign workers, but there are still an estimated 1.5 million documented foreign workers and as many as one million illegal workers in Malaysia, which has a population of 28 million. Proponents of a minimum wage say it would persuade more native-born Malaysians to take jobs that now only foreigners want.

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress, which represents 600,000 workers, wants to see a minimum monthly wage of 900 ringgit apply to all workers, foreign and domestic, supplemented by a cost-of-living allowance that would vary by location.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/business/global/14wage.html?partner=rss&emc=rss