In addition to the more than $20 million AEG is paying to produce the shows, the company is putting its reputation on the line for a performer with a track record of missed performances and canceled dates. "In this business, if you don't take risks, you don't achieve greatness," Phillips said.
But the problems that have bedeviled Jackson in the past -- infighting, disorganization and questionable advisors -- persist.
In an interview last week, Tohme identified himself as the singer's "manager, spokesman, everything" and spoke about the benefits of dealing with business titans Barrack and Anschutz rather than their "sleazy" predecessors. "Michael Jackson is an institution. He needs to be run like an institution," Tohme said.
The next day, however, longtime Jackson associate DiLeo claimed he was Jackson's manager and said Tohme had been fired a month and a half earlier. Tohme denied being fired but declined to comment further.
In April, Jackson fired the accounting firm Cannon & Co., which had worked for him for a year, according to an accountant who worked on his finances. In his corner office high above Century City, Barrack is sanguine about reports of disharmony. "You have the same thousand parasites that start to float back in and take advantage of the situation and that has happened a little at the edges." But, he added, he had confidence in AEG's ability to keep Jackson focused.
The concerts, Phillips acknowledged, are a do-or-die moment for Jackson. "If it doesn't happen, it would be a major problem for him career-wise in a way that it hasn't been in the past," he said.