Ticket refund bill may be $85 million

LONDON — Tributes continued to pour in for Michael Jackson following his death Thursday, while fans who had bought tickets to the singer’s proposed mammoth 50-date tour at London’s O2 Arena began the hunt to get their money back.

With news of Jackson’s death breaking late Thursday night in the U.K., both BBC News and Sky News found their studio guest options limited. That didn’t stop the story from being the lead item through the night and most of Friday.

Jackson’s death coincided with the start of the weekend-long Glastonbury music festival, which Bruce Springsteen is headlining this year. A host of musical tributes to Jackson are expected at the event, whose lineup includes Neil Young, Blur and Lady GaGa.

The sheer scale of Jackson’s proposed 50-date residency at London’s O2 Arena, originally set to kick off July 8 and end in March next year, has left ticket sellers and buyers scrambling.

Concert promoter AEG Live, which had organized the proposed series of concerts, is reportedly staring at an $85 million refund bill. Some 750,000 tickets were sold within hours for Jackson’s “This Is It” tour, with an estimated 13 tickets being sold every second. Execs from AEG Live, which is a division of Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz’ Anschutz Entertainment Group, were still preparing a statement Friday afternoon when contacted by Variety.

Ticketmaster, which handled approximately half of the tickets sold for the concerts, were still to issue an official statement on their refund policy, although it is believed that members of the public who purchased their tickets directly from the site will get their money back.

Those who bought tickets from secondary sites such as Seatwave and Viagogo should also get a refund, although the picture is less clear for those who bought from private sellers on the likes of eBay.

AEG Live had already invested $20 million in Jackson’s hi-tech sets and now has the added worry of filling the dates previously occupied by the concerts. One idea already being mooted is an all-star tribute concert to Jackson at the O2 Arena sometime in July as a way for AEG to recoup some of their costs. AEG execs refused to confirm or deny those plans.

AEG officials reputedly struggled to secure insurance for all of Jackson’s performances, given the singer’s decade-long absence from performing as well as concerns over his health and increasingly eccentric behavior in recent years.

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