The upcoming HBO airing of the salacious two-part documentary Leaving Neverland has hit a legal roadblock by the estate of Michael Jackson. The film details old and new allegations against the King of Pop and his alleged molestation of young boys. Now lawyers for the Jackson estate are citing a 1992 agreement with HBO and has hit them with a whopping $100 million lawsuit.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the suit was filed this week in Los Angeles Superior court. The plaintiffs are Optimum Productions and two co-executors of the Jackson estate. The lawsuit alleges that HBO and parent company Time Warner are in breach of an almost 27-year-old non-disparagement clause with the production and airing of “Leaving Neverland.”
The clause was part of an agreement with HBO to film Jackson’s “Dangerous” tour. The complaint states, “In those non-disparagement provisions, HBO promised that ‘HBO shall not make any disparaging remarks concerning performer or any of his representatives, agents, or business practices or do any act that may harm or disparage or cause to lower in esteem the reputation or public image of performer. Other provisions in the Agreement require HBO to notify and consult with Jackson and Optimum Productions if it wishes to air additional programming about Jackson.”
The plaintiffs contend that HBO used footage and statements from that special titled “Michael Jackson in Concert in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour” in the Leaving Neverland documentary. It revolves around Jackson’s interactions with children on that tour and hints at impropriety, a move that the Jackson estate perceives as further smearing of his legacy.
In response, HBO has issued a statement that reads in part, “Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of “Leaving Neverland”, the two-part documentary, on March 3rd and 4th. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”