LOS ANGELES -- Haggling over the spoils of the Jackson brothers' Victory Tour by promoters and lawyers tainted the celebrated multimillion dollar North American road show -- the most lucrative rock show ever mounted.
Predictions of stampedes and rioting fans failed to materialize at the 55 90-minute concerts as Michael Jackson hit the stage, reluctantly, in 23 cities.
Flamboyant boxing promoter Don King predicted the tour through American and Canadian cities would rake in $100 million, but estimates vary widely. Lagging ticket sales reportedly put the figure at half that amount, with seats still available at showtime for the Victory Tour finale at Dodger Stadium.
The Victory Tour, which concludes Sunday, established several concert firsts:
-The 2.5 million people attending the concerts surpassed by 500,000 the record set by the Rolling Stones on their 1981 tour.
-The group trucked more equipment than any previous act, more than 365 tons.
-The Jacksons gave away nearly $1 million worth of tickets to the disadvantaged and the disabled.
Michael Jackson, the most explosive rock phenomenon since the Beatles, reluctantly accompained his brothers on the final family tour at the urging of his mother.
With $45 million in earnings last year, primarily from his 'Thriller' album, he didn't need the money. He objected to the stiff $30 ticket price, but was overruled by his brothers. Objecting to the appearance of greed, Michael said he was donating his proceeds to charity.
The subdued crowds attending the 53 Victory Tour dates were obviously drawn by the reclusive Michael. They were his people - racially mixed with mothers tugging toddlers sporting Jackson's famed sequined gloves and teenagers with parents.
The show itself was a polished, Las Vegas-style extravaganza beneath a waffle grid of blinding lights. With laser beams piercing the skies, Michael 'moonwalked' across the Star Wars set to the glee of mostly pre-pubescent fans.
Concert-goers throughout the tour said their money was well-spent.
'The tour has been exhilarating and stimulating,' said Howard Bloom, chief tour publicist. 'The Jacksons have an unusually high degree of social consciousness. Unfortunately, it has been obscured by the controversy.'
The behind-the-scenes turmoil caused by a phalanx of promoters, publicists, lawyers and bickering family members stole much of the spotlight, as well as a half dozen lawsuits filed against the Jacksons since the tour began ranging from a breach of contract action by a guitar maker to the $40 million suit by Rhode Island promoter Frank Russo.
On its face, Victory was the most disorganized tour ever.
At Michael's Southern California mansion, family matriarch Catherine Jackson told reporters the tour would begin June 22 at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. Instead, it started in Kansas City.
King was picked to oversee the tour because 'he was the only one who wanted to get my mother and father involved,' said Jermaine Jackson. But King's lack of experience with rock tours, and Michael's dissatisfaction with his selection, led to the signing of NFL owner Chuck Sullivan.
When Sullivan, owner of Stadium Management Corp. in Foxboro, Mass., and owner of the New England Patriots, finally took over as promoter and guaranteed the Jacksons $38 million with $12.5 million up front, the tour was only weeks away. Sullivan said the inexperience of top decision makers was at the root of tour troubles.
Wrangling over financial details among committees representing each family member put the weekend finale in jeopardy.
King told reporters this week the shows would go on despite payment to the Jacksons of what he called a 'miniscule' $1.5 million for the engagements. He blamed Sullivan.
Asked for his side of the controversy, Sullivan said this week: 'I have a coronary problem and don't really want to get involved in whatever Don said or didn't say.'
Sullivan, confident initially that demand for Jacksons tickets would sell out each arena, agreed to pay the brothers 75 percent of the face ticket value for each unsold seat. It was clear halfway through the tour, however, that many seats were going unsold. Sullivan struck new deals with the family.
Since the start of the tour, King said, Sullivan has used his claim that he is losing money to renegotiate an 8 percent increase for himself to come out of ticket sales, a percentage of profits from Jackson memorabilia and a partial return of money on unsold tickets.
The tour is over and for some there is a lingering aftertaste of greed and mismanagement. Time will determine if Michael, the world's man-child superstar, will be tarnished by the backstage fiasco.