More than two dozen analog master tapes capturing Michael Jackson singing songs at the Hit Factory recording studio in New York in 1994 have been pulled from an auction site after a lawyer representing the 'King of Pop''s estate threatened a lawsuit this week, Billboard confirmed.
The rare recordings reportedly feature Jackson performing unreleased songs including "Lost in Love," "Like U," "New Jelly" and "Rescue Me." A total of 25 metal reel 2-inch master tapes were unveiled by auction house Gotta Have Rock and Roll last month, drawing the attention of Jackson's estate. The collectibles dealer said each tape was expected to fetch from $2,000 to $4,000 USD and was being sold as "an artifact only," with no copyright. "Reproduction is strictly prohibited," the site said, according to archived links showing the since-deleted listings.
In a letter dated Nov. 29, Jackson estate attorney Jonathan Steinsapir gave notice that the tapes had been stolen. He demanded that Gotta Have Rock and Roll not only "cease and desist from any and all efforts to further auction these tapes," but also immediately return them. "These tapes were unquestionably stolen or otherwise taken without authorization. Accordingly, they are the property of the Jackson Estate."
That correspondence didn't elicit a takedown.
On Dec. 12, Alex Spiro — the outspoken attorney for the rich and famous and who has previously represented Jay-Z, Megan Thee Stallion and Elon Musk in court — sent an email to the auction house's lawyer, and noted that Gotta Have Rock and Roll had informed Steinsapir that it "will not comply with these demands."
Gotta Have Rock and Roll removed the 25 tapes from its website after Spiro's letter.
The auction site still lists numerous Jackson items as part of the sale, including a "Michael Jackson Circa 1984 Owned & Worn Red Military Style Jacket" that they estimate will sell for more than $10,000. But the tapes, and the specific lot numbers they occupied, are no longer visible.
This latest scuffle over ownership of Jackson’s memorabilia follows after his estate sued Jeffré Phillips, the former boyfriend of Jackson's sister La Toya, in June 2022 with claims Phillips used the "chaos and sadness surrounding Jackson's death to steal some of Jackson's most personal and private property." The estate alleged Phillips swiped iPhones, prescription pill bottles, handwritten notes, video cameras, computers, hard drives, and even the pajamas Jackson was wearing when he died from cardiac arrest caused by the intravenous anesthetic propofol inside his rented Los Angeles mansion on June 25, 2009.