'Leaving Neverland' Lawsuit: Michael Jackson Estate Claims Documentary Violates Old HBO Contract
The controversy over "Leaving Neverland" continues.
With HBO planning to air a two-part documentary about abuse allegations against Michael Jackson in March, the Jackson estate has filed a lawsuit against the premium network. The suit maintains that Jackson is innocent and alleges that HBO has breached a non-disparagement clause agreed upon in a 1992 contract, as well as the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It also states that the estate will seek damages that "could exceed $100 million," per Deadline.
Jackson and HBO's contract came about after the pop star announced a world tour in 1992, following the release of his studio album "Dangerous." He had never allowed any of his concerts to be aired or broadcast in their entirety on U.S. television, so it was a major coup when the cabler secured the rights. HBO paid nearly $20 million, according to a New York Times source in August 1992, and the televised concert performance became its highest-rated special ever, as Variety reported in October 1992.
The clause in question states that "HBO shall not make any disparaging remarks concerning Performer or any of his representatives, agents, or business practices or do any act that may harm or disparage or cause to lower in esteem the reputation or public image of Performer," according to the suit. Meanwhile, Dan Reed's "Leaving Neverland" focuses on two men, Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, who allege that Jackson abused them as children. The suit argues that Jackson is innocent and that the documentary is a "one-sided hit piece."
"HBO breached its agreement not to disparage Michael Jackson by producing and selling to the public a one-sided marathon of unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man no longer here to defend himself," Jackson estate attorney Howard Weitzman told Deadline.
HBO has not yet commented on the suit. "Leaving Neverland" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25 and is scheduled to air on Sunday, March 3 and Monday, March 4.