Michael Jackson estate valuers give rare inside look

BVWireIssue #227-1
August 4, 2021

federal taxation
intellectual property, expert testimony, intangible assets, estate tax, fair market value (FMV), subsequent events, michael jackson, image, reasonably foreseeable

Experts for the estate of pop superstar Michael Jackson presented a fascinating look at how the valuations were done for the “tax trial of the century” in a BVR webinar. The case, Estate of Michael J. Jackson v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2021-48 (May 3, 2021), triggered intense media attention and was closely watched by valuation experts because of the contentious issues involved. In dispute was the value of three assets: Jackson’s name and likeness, his 50% interest in a music publishing company (operating business), and an entity that held a catalog of music.

The webinar panel consisted of Jay E. Fishman (Financial Research Associates) and celebrity licensing expert Mark Roesler (CMG Worldwide), who worked together on valuing the name and likeness. Also on the panel was music industry financial advisor David Dunn (Shot Tower Capital), who advised on the valuation of the publishing entity and the music catalog.

Widely divergent opinions: There was a huge difference between the valuations of the estate and the IRS—so great that, if the government prevailed, the estate would have to pay an extra $500 million in taxes. Why such a massive difference? As in most cases, divergent values are the result of different assumptions and inputs (some legitimate and some questionable), and the panel went into great detail about these matters, including the valuation approaches, projections, discount rates, discounts for lack of marketability and control, tax affecting, and more.

In the end, the court sided with the estate on the name and likeness value and the value of the music publishing company. The court sided with the IRS on the value of the music catalog. On the issue of tax affecting, although the Tax Court had ruled in the Estate of Jones (2019) that tax affecting was appropriate, it ruled that the facts and circumstances in this case did not support tax affecting.

A recording of the webinar, Power Panel: Estate of Michael J. Jackson v. Commissioner, is available if you click here (free to holders of BVR’s Training Passport and subscribers to BVR’s Desktop Learning Center). A case analysis as well as the court’s opinion are available at BVLaw.

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