London, Nov 17: Michael Jackson, the troubled pop star, is facing a multi-million-pound breach of contract action in London today, just days after he disposed of his Neverland ranch in California.
The case, brought against Mr Jackson by Sheikh Abdulla Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, son of the King of Bahrain, is listed to come before a High Court judge today.
Although there is a strong possibility that the $7 million (£4.7 million) claim will be settled, security staff at the Royal Courts of Justice are still geared up for Mr Jackson’s possible appearance at the courts.
Sheikh Abdullah, who became a close friend of Mr Jackson during the star’s six-month stay in Bahrain in 2005, alleges he reneged on a recording and entertainment project.
The sheikh says the proceeds of the project were to be used to repay money he had advanced to Mr Jackson to help him out of his financial difficulties.
In his pleaded defence, Mr Jackson says the payments he received were “gifts” and that no project was ever finalised.
The lawsuit is the latest downturn in the fortunes of the reclusive singer after he was last week forced to give up the deeds to his Neverland ranch.
Mr Jackson filed a grant deed last Monday that transfers ownership of the ranch to a company called the Sycamore Valley Ranch Co LLC, Tom Pearson of the Santa Barbara County clerk-recorder’s office said.
The company is a joint venture between the singer and an affiliate of Colony Capital LLC, according to person with knowledge of the transaction who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The person could not say what would become of the 2,500-acre (1,012-hectare) property located in the tranquil, oak-studded hills of Santa Barbara County’s wine country, 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Mr Jackson had gone into default on the $24.5 million he owes on the property, and had faced foreclosure before Colony Capital, a real estate investment company run by billionaire Thomas Barrack, bailed him out earlier this year by purchasing his loan.
Mr Pearson said the deed did not indicate who owns Sycamore.
A listing on the California secretary of state’s website said the Sycamore Valley Ranch Co filed with the state in June. It does not identify its owners, but the company has the same Century City address as Colony Capital LLC, which owns several properties in Las Vegas, including the Las Vegas Hilton.
The property was called Sycamore Valley Ranch before Mr Jackson bought it in 1988 and began turning it into a miniature amusement park with a zoo, Ferris wheel, roller coaster and other rides.
He renamed the ranch after the mythical land of Peter Pan and set about creating the magical childhood experiences he said his career as a child star had denied him. “It’s like stepping into Oz,” he once said of Neverland. “Once you come in the gates, the outside world does not exist.”
At the peak of his fame, the superstar invited thousands of children to play on the grounds, striking up close friendships with a number of young boys which later resulted in child abuse allegations in 1993 and again in 2003.
Though the first dispute ended in an out of court settlement and the second in his acquittal, the cases took a heavy toll on his health, career and finances. Following his 2003 arrest on charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy, his empire began to crumble, forcing Mr Jackson to sell most of his music publishing holdings to Sony and, in 2006, to close the main house on the Neverland ranch and relocate to Bahrain.
The eccentric singer, who turned 50 in August, has not been seen in the Los Olivos area since a jury acquitted him of all charges in the summer of 2005, and recent aerial photos show the ranch beginning to fall into disrepair.