Auctioneers deny Michael Jackson sale unauthorized

By Jill Serjeant

June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 5, 2009 at 4:11 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The auctioneers behind a
huge April sale of Michael Jackson items, including the gates
of the singer's Neverland Ranch in California, Thursday
denied claims it did not have permission to sell them.

Jackson's production company MJJ Productions filed a
lawsuit in Los Angeles Wednesday claiming that Julien's
Auction House had "effectively stolen Michael Jackson's
personal property" and refused to return it.

The news came as the reclusive pop star appeared in London
and announced a series of comeback concerts in the British
capital in July.

The five-day auction, set for April 21-25 in Beverly Hills,
was to feature some 2,000 Jackson items and was expected to
fetch up to $3 million.

"The lawsuit came as a total shock to us," auctioneer
Darren Julien said Thursday. "We have worked very closely
with Michael Jackson over the last eight months and his manager
Dr Tohme, and Dr Tohme has approved everything that we have
done."

"They approached us and we have totally cooperated with
them as we do with all our clients. If they did not want these
items auctioned, why have an auction house come to see them?"
he added.

Auction catalogs and pictures of the items for sale, which
also include a signature Jackson single white crystal-laden
glove, had been shared with, and approved by, Jackson and Tohme
before being printed in February, Julien said.

The lawsuit said some of the items had "extraordinary
sentimental value" and that Julien's had refused to return
them.

Julien, whose company has worked in the past with stars
like Cher and Barbra Streisand, said his company had spent
hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing the Jackson auction,
which was to have been preceded by an exhibit in Beverly Hills.
It was unclear if the auction will proceed.

Jackson, 50, once one of the world's biggest pop stars, has
been a virtual recluse since his acquittal in 2005 on criminal
charges of molesting a young boy.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)




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