Jacko eyes way to keep Sony stake

Jackson fights debt threats

While Michael Jackson appears to have set up a new home in Bahrain and what’s left of his U.S. empire seems neglected, negotiations are taking place to prevent him from losing a key income producer — his half of Sony ATV music publishing.

Lawyers and Jackson’s brother Randy have spent the week negotiating with the Fortress Investment Group, which holds the singer’s debt — $200 million — after purchasing the loan from Bank of America. Jackson’s reps want to delay repayment for another six months at an interest rate of 9.5%. Published reports stated that Jackson failed to make his monthly interest payment in October.

The jewel in the 4,000-song Sony ATV is the Beatles’ back catalog, which could easily fetch north of $500 million on the open market. Jackson co-owns the company with Sony Corp. of America, which would have first crack at Jacko’s half should he sell. Sony is believed to be involved in the talks as well and may step in financially and allow Jackson to hold onto his share.

Jackson’s finances have been debated heavily of late. Besides legal debts from his child-molestation trial, he is rumored to be behind in payments on the Jackson family home in Encino, and his Neverland Ranch north of Santa Barbara is suffering as well.

In the U.K., Jackson will embark on a re-release schedule patterned after RCA’s Elvis Presley stunt this year. Starting Jan. 23 and continuing through May, Jackson will re-release 20 of his hit singles — one per week — as DualDiscs, which feature an audio CD on one side and a DVD video on the other. A collector’s edition of “Thriller” also will be released Jan. 23.

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