King of Pop needs more rehearsal time, says reps

LONDON (AP) — Michael Jackson’s representatives announced Wednesday that the elusive King of Pop will postpone several of his London comeback shows scheduled for this summer.

The opening night at the 02 Arena had been set for July 8 but will be moved back to July 13, promoters said. In addition, shows scheduled for July 10, July 12 and July 14 will instead be held in March 2010.

The delays are likely to fuel speculation that Jackson is suffering from health ailments that may curtail his comeback bid.

Kenny Ortega, Jackson’s collaborator, said the change is needed to deliver a flawless production.

“We apologize to all disappointed Michael Jackson fans and remain extremely dedicated and focused on creating an exceptional live music experience,” he said. Promoters said anyone who chooses not to attend the rescheduled shows will be entitled to a full refund.

Jackson’s 50 shows are scheduled to kick off in July and stretch into March. The troubled pop singer has said the series, entitled “This is It,” will be his last in the British capital.

Promoters said the tickets sold out within hours of becoming available.

Jackson, who has sold more than 750 million albums and won 13 Grammys, hasn’t undertaken a a major tour since 1997 or released an album of new material since 2001.

The 50-year-old singer has been seen in public infrequently since he was acquitted of child molestation in California in 2005. He has struggled to pay his debts, and was forced last year to give up the deed to Neverland, his 2,500-acre (1,000-hectare) ranch and miniature amusement park in California.

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