John Branca, co-executor of the Michael Jackson Estate has spoken publicly for the first time about controversial documentary series – Leaving Neverland. Last week, he expressed that an additional litigation may be forthcoming against the film’s director Dan Reed.
John Branca is not alone in his upset surrounding the film and its accusations, with two other members of the Jackson Estate legal team, Howard Weitzman and Bryan Freedman being key participants in a panel discussion titled: “Trial by Media: Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” which took place at Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Leaving Neverland has been dividing opinions since its release, and the attorneys had deeply harsh words for the documentary and for Reed himself. Telling an audience of approximately twenty people that they were determined to defend and rebuild the now deeply damaged reputation of Michael Jackson since the uprising of Leaving Neverland.
The documentary contains graphic and detailed first-person accounts of Jackson and his alleged paedophilia, primarily through two men who stated they were victims of Jackson in youth, backed up by the re-telling of memories from their family members.
What the film did not do however, is offer the estate a chance to respond to these accusations, leaving the documentary to come forth as a very one sided and unethical piece of journalism.
Litigation is already underway against HBO, as in February the estate filed a $100 million lawsuit against the pay cabler alleging it had violated a non-disparagement clause contained in a 1992 agreement to premier Jackson’s concert film, Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour.
Now, Branca has expressed that a new litigation could be taking place as he and the estate lawyers are considering taking legal action directly against Reed. Although Branca was not specific about what grounds he had for litigation, this is something expected to come to light in the upcoming weeks.
An HBO spokesperson has responded to Branca’s comments by stating: “Dan Reed is a proven award-winning filmmaker and we have full confidence in his film.”
Branca, age 63, knew Jackson personally, so much so that he had the singer serve as the best man at his wedding. A factor that must indicate just how below the belt the documentary was for Branca, and other friends/family members of Michael Jackson.
“Those people made up a goddamn story because they wanted money, and we will not allow that to go unchecked,” Branca told Billboard after the event. “It’s that simple.”
Whatever the viewer chooses to believe, one thing is for certain, the film is remarkably bias. Branca has expressed that The Estate was blindsided by the documentary because it was made in “complete secrecy.”
He has expressed that neither Reed nor HBO offered The Estate a chance to clear up inaccuracies or present their/Jackson’s side of events that were being discussed, despite some members of the estate knowing Wade Robson and James Safechuck personally (the men accusing Jackson in the documentary).
Leaving Neverland has affirmed for Branca, Weitzman and Freedman, that Jackson’s treatment in the media has been so one-sided that there is no deformation protection for the deceased. Branca has expressed that the law surrounding defamation should be re-evaluated, as there is the chance that Jackson’s reputation has been damaged beyond repair.
“Because the laws of defamation are what they are, there is nothing we can do or say,” Branca said.
“The man can be damaged, his kids can be hurt and theoretically nothing can be done. I’m going to suggest the law should be changed to protect the deceased at least for a period of time. Because it’s about the truth, it’s about fairness, and it’s about balance.”
He went on to explain: “Dan Reed’s documentary is replete with inaccuracies, lies and stuff they knew not to be true. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
Over the course of the last decade, since Jackson’s death in 2009, The Estate’s wealth has grown exponentially under Branca’s leadership, and he has expressed that he understands people will see him as biased due to his financial interest in The Estate.
Although he does want people to acknowledge he wants justice for Jackson under genuine principles rather than financial gains.
Billboard has calculated that Jackson’s music catalogue alone is now worth upwards of a whopping $570 million, and that Branca, as co-executor, receives a 10% commission on new entertainment revenues generated for the Estate. This is a fact Branca refuses to deny.
“I knew the man, I had my feelings about the man, and I don’t like what has happened where you can’t hear the other side of the story,” Branca said during the panel presentation. “There are real-world implications and repercussions when somebody says something like was said [in Leaving Neverland].”
Prior to the documentary’s release, The Estate was on a upward trajectory, and since has taken a hit. That being said, sales are still higher than they were in 2018.
The bottom line is Branca wants justice for his late friend. As do many members of the Estate and on top of that, many fans and friends of Jackson from across the globe. “Hopefully, the real truth will come out, other facts will come out and people will pay attention to both sides of the story.”
“From the point of view of society, I want to make it so people feel comfortable saying, ‘I love Michael’s music.'”
“Michael,” Branca said to Billboard, “is too big to fail.”
One thing is for certain, there does need to be the opportunity for the side of Michael Jackson to be heard. With him being deceased that opportunity falls to those nearest and dearest to the singer.
Whether Leaving Neverland is expressing the truth or not – every piece of influential media should fairly and evenly distribute the sides and opinions of both parties, to avoid bias and unethical journalism to come forward, and shape the views of the masses in a potentially unfair manner.