Celine Dion was the surprising focus of AEG's opening defense this week.
A top executive for AEG Live has managed to turn the farcical Michael Jackson trial into an absolute circus by claiming the Canadian singer Celine Dion is a "bigger" artist than the late King of Pop ever was.
Testifying at the long-running wrongful death trial, John Meglin downplayed Jackson's lawyers claim that the singer would have earned $1.5 billion touring the world, according to CNN.
Meglin, who has been a concert promoter since the 1970s, was the first witness called to the stand as AEG Live began its defense in the thirteenth week of the trial. Much of his testimony focused on ridiculing accountant Arthur Much's claims that Jackson would have played 260 shows around the world as part of his This Is It tour, earning $890 million plus more in endorsements and sponsorships before his 66th birthday.
Though perhaps slightly inflated, it's not a wholly ridiculous claim. Pink Floyd played 200 shows on their A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour in the 1980s. Aging rockers AC/DC comfortably managed 167 shows on their recent Black Ice World Tour. Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour lasted 200 shows.
Nevertheless, Meglin testified that from his experience, the estimates were inflated by 30%. For example, he said The Rose Bowl in Los Angeles would only hold 60,000, despite U2 playing to 97,000 fans in 2009. Saying that he was "trusting my guy", Meglin added, "I know how those numbers can be manipulated."
Meglin also contested that Jackson would have taken his tour to India for at least three shows. "Nobody goes to India," he said, "It's not a very big market."
The country, home to 1.25 billion people, played host to a sold out Michael Jackson concert in Mumbai in the 1990s and continues to be one of the fastest growing music scenes in the world. Rockers Guns n Roses visited recently, while hip-hop, dance and electronica acts such as Jay Sean, Wyclef Jean and Tiesto have played to sold out crowds.
Also on Meglin's radar was an email from his own boss, AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips, who wrote that demand in England was enough to sell out over 200 Jackson shows. "He believed that," Meglin testified. "I don't believe that."
When asked whether he agreed that Michael Jackson remained the biggest act on the planet at the time of his death, Meglin disagreed though bizarrely added, "Celine Dion is right up there with Michael Jackson and, to me, she is bigger."
Perhaps Michael Jackson Would Have Supported Celine Dion?
Even Celine Dion Doesn't Think She's Bigger Than Michael Jackson