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"You know what AEG's problem was?” Panish asked the jury of six men and six women.“They were not No. 1 in the concert business but they wanted to be."


Promoter’s Executives Randy Phillips, Paul Gongaware Come Under Scrutiny

Could this be the end of Randy Phillips at AEG?

The AEG executive was in the crosshairs as attorney Brian Panish, who represents the Jackson family in its wrongful death suit, insisted on the first day of the trial that the concert promoter was so desperate to become #1 in the industry that Phillips and Paul Gongaware, among others,“ruthlessly pushed the pop star to perform, caring little about his health.”

"AEG had a problem, and they wanted to fix it," he said. "They didn't care who got lost in the wash."

But AEG's lawyers countered that it was Jackson who initially wanted to perform again because he was deeply in debt and insisted on hiring Dr. Conrad Murray, who administered the fatal dose of propofol that killed the singer shortly before he was scheduled to appear in a series of shows in London in 2009. Murray was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

"This case is about the choices we make and the personal responsibility that comes with them," said AEG attorney Marvin Putnam.

Putnam also warned the trial would lift the veil on Jackson's private persona. "We are going to show some ugly stuff," he warned.

The lawsuit is expected to last four months, with Jackson fans from as far away as Italy lining up for a chance to win one of two spectator seats in the courtroom.

Filed in 2010 by Jackson's mother Katherine, and his three children—Prince, Paris and Blanket—the suit accuses AEG's concert and promotions arm, along with executives Phillips and Gongaware, of negligently hiring and controlling Murray.

Panish described the disgraced doc as “financially strapped” and susceptible to pressure because he was behind on child support payments and in danger of losing his Las Vegas home.

But it was AEG, Panish said, who was ultimately responsible for the music legend's 2009 death. Panish said experts will testify that the economic loss from Jackson's death was $1.5 billion.

"You know what AEG's problem was?” Panish asked the jury of six men and six women.“They were not No. 1 in the concert business but they wanted to be."

Panish projected slides of emails from tour manager Gongaware responding to director Kenny Ortega's plea to stay on top of Jackson's health after Murray refused to allow him to rehearse one day. "We want to remind [Murray] that it is AEG, not MJ who is paying his salary. We want him to understand what is expected of him."

Turning to the jury, Panish asked, "Does this sound like a company that exercised reasonable care in supervising and retaining a doctor? Remember that in 11 days, Michael Jackson is dead."

AEG, however, said although it was widely known that Jackson had abused prescription painkillers, company officials were unaware he used propofol. "It wasn't painkillers that killed Michael Jackson; propofol killed Michael Jackson," Putnam said.

Randy Jackson, Michael's brother, was in court Monday, along with his sister Rebbie and mother Katherine.