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LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Michael Jackson’s dismal public image in his final years meant his final concert series had no sponsors, despite record advance ticket sales for the 50 planned shows, a witness said.

The testimony of Eric Briggs, of FTI Consulting, on Monday opened the 14th week of the Jackson family’s lawsuit against concert promoters AEG LIve.

The King of Pop’s mother, Katherine, and his children, are suing AEG for negligence, blaming the company for causing his death in 2009.

They accuse AEG Live of pushing Jackson too hard as he rehearsed in Los Angeles for the “This is It” comeback concert series in London and of negligently hiring doctor Conrad Murray to look after him.

Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 over Jackson’s June 25, 2009 death from an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol, administered to help the 50-year-old singer with chronic insomnia.

They are demanding $1.5 billion in damages — the amount their expert estimates Jackson would have earned from the concert and a worldwide tour if he had lived.

But Briggs, a defense witness, argued against this estimate Monday at the Los Angeles Superior Court.

He emphasized that the pop icon’s image had deteriorated greatly in the years leading up to his death on June 25, 2009 — so much so that no company agreed to sponsor his final tour — even though the 50 London shows sold out within hours.

“Brand companies appreciate artists [that] can be great performers, but that doesn’t mean they want to put their names next to the performers,” Briggs said.

According to him, Jackson’s image rebounded somewhat in the 1990s, but it plummeted again in 2003 for several reasons, most notably the accusations he molested young boys.

For big-name labels, Jackson was a risk, because new scandals could emerge without warning, Briggs explained, and “brands are looking for predictability.”

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Kathy Barnette

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