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Michael back on track

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

London (Reuters): Michael Jackson, seeking to revive his pop singing career after his acquittal on sex-abuse charges, has teamed up with a label in Bahrain to record a new album set for release next year. A statement released yesterday on behalf of Two Seas Records said British music industry executive Guy Holmes had been named CEO of a newly formed joint venture between Jackson and Bahrain royal family member Abdulla Hamad Al-Khalifa. Holmes, who now plans to divide his time between London and Bahrain, will oversee the making of Jackson's first studio album since ''Invincible'' in 2001, and also manage the star's business interests, the statement added. ''I am incredibly excited about my new venture, and I am enjoying being back in the studio making music,'' Jackson said in the statement.

The 47-year-old singer, one of the top-selling recording acts of all time, now lives in the Gulf state of Bahrain. Holmes is chairman of London-based independent label Gut Records. Calls to Gut Records seeking more information about the deal with Jackson were referred back to the label's public relations agency, which declined further comment. Jackson's US spokeswoman, Raymone Bain, said she was not aware of a joint venture between Jackson and Al-Khalifa but said Two Seas had previously been chosen by the star to release his Hurricane Katrina charity single. A spokesman for Epic Records, the Sony BMG label where Jackson's long-running recording contract recently expired, said the music company had no comment on his latest move. Industry consultant Barry Massarsky said he expects any one of the three remaining major labels would likely be willing to distribute a new album from Jackson.

''They're not afraid of anything but failure, and they're always looking for the next greatest hit,'' he told Reuters, adding that Jackson could follow a path similar to that taken by Mariah Carey, who found success at Universal Music after her highly publicized fallout with EMI Group Plc. A spokesman for Universal Music declined to comment. News of Jackson's latest deal comes days after the singer announced he had reached agreement with creditors to refinance some $270 million in loans secured by his prized stake in the Beatles' song catalog. Part of the deal calls for Sony Corp, which jointly owns publishing rights to more than 200 Beatles songs with Jackson, to buy another 25 per cent of the catalog, or half of Jackson's stake. The entire catalog is valued at about $1 billion.

Jackson's trial on sex abuse charges last year shed new light on the nature of his finances, including prosecution testimony that Jackson had borrowed heavily against his assets to support years of extravagant spending. He was acquitted by a jury last June of all charges stemming from accusations made by a teenage boy that he had been molested by Jackson at his Neverland Valley Ranch in central California but his career as an entertainer and recording artist has been left in shambles. The fate of the new album will be closely watched by the record industry after ''Invincible,'' Jackson's previous comeback bid, registered disappointing US sales of around 2 million copies. Jackson's ''Thriller'' remains one of the bestselling studio albums of all time with over 26 million US copies sold.

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