Veteran music business attorney Branca, co-executor of the Michael Jackson Estate with John McClain, has helped boost its value to reportedly more than a billion dollars, thanks to the sale of the late pop star’s publishing holdings to Sony/ATV for $750 million in March 2016.
A partner at the L.A. law firm of Ziffren Brittenham, the 66-year-old Mount Vernon, New York, native — who played keyboards in a band that opened for The Doors in the ‘60s on the Sunset Strip — earned his law degree at UCLA in 1975 and began working for legendary entertainment attorney David Braun, whose clients included Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and George Harrison. Branca went on to represent the Beach Boys, through which an accountant introduced him to Michael Jackson.
As Jackson’s attorney, Branca proceeded to renegotiate the singer’s royalty rate with Epic Records, catapulting the King of Pop into the stratosphere after the release of “Thriller” and its subsequent video. Branca helped raise $1 million to produce the mini-film via deals with Showtime, MTV a sell-off of home video rights.
In 1984, Branca negotiated for Jackson to acquire ATV Music Publishing, a catalog which included 200 Beatles songs and helped keep Michael afloat when he later ran into financial trouble. In 1995, the lawyer arranged for Jackson’s ATV to merge with Sony’s music publishing in exchange for $115 million and a yearly payoff starting at $10 million. That same year, Jackson named Branca and McClain as executors in his will, which was subsequently revised to include his children.
Although fired and rehired several times, Branca has a letter from Jackson proving he was put back on the payroll just eight days before his death – despite the family’s protests. He then went to work monetizing the estate with McClain, orchestrating a $60 million deal with Sony for the posthumous “This Is It” movie and 10 unreleased albums, refinancing his debt and lowering the rate on a $300 million loan, saving a princely sum. Today, Branca continues to defend the Jackson estate’s interests in legal battles that have arisen since Michael Jackson’s 2009 death, including a recent claim by producer Quincy Jones that he was underpaid royalties on several of Jackson’s seminal albums.