He sired one of the most successful musical groups ever as well as the most famous entertainer of all time. The fame Joe Jackson obsessively pursued for his offspring eventually led to enormous wealth for the Jackson clan. Yet, in many ways, the Jacksons were plagued not only by seemingly emotional demons but financial ones as well.
At one point, the Jackson 5 had a fortune that was reported to be “only second to the Beatles.” By 2008, one of the Jackson brothers had a job stocking groceries, another repaired cars, and a third lived with Katherine and Joe who were in danger then of losing their mansion, ABC News reported at the time.
And of course, the fortune, as well as the debt Michael Jackson amassed, are legendary. At the time of his death in 2009, Michael’s net worth was estimated at $500 million. During the singer’s wrongful death trial, it was revealed he was $400 million–$500 million in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy.
Tito Jackson, better known as T.J., expressed financial hardship after his uncle Michael’s death. He was appointed as guardian (along with the Jackson matriarch Katherine) of Michael’s three children and said he could not afford the cost of their care and requested additional funds from the late singer’s estate.
And who can forget the reports of how ugly the battle for the estate’s money became between the family members? Although Jackson was in the red when he died, he earned the lurid distinction of becoming one of the world’s richest dead celebrities. Royalties from record sales and from the Beatles’ song catalog, which the singer purchased in 1985, earned the estate hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Daily Mail reported in 2012 that Michael’s brothers and sisters, angered over being left out of his will, turned their fury toward Katherine and the estate’s executors. The situation got so crazy and heated that there were rumors that Katherine, who had disappeared from public view for a time, had been drugged and kidnapped over the money. The police were called when Randy, Janet, and Jermaine caused a ruckus at one of the family’s compounds.
How could such a successful, rich family descend into such financial chaos? Many accounts state that Michael Jackson accumulated massive debt from out-of-control spending. Mental health experts assert that compulsive overspending is often a way to compensate for negative feelings—a form of self-medicating. “Most often, compulsive buyers experience a great deal of negative emotion, and the actual shopping isn’t the root of their problem,” wrote Ryan T. Howell, Ph.D. for Psychology Today.
A drug addict, an accused child molester, at worst—a grown man extremely inappropriate with children, at least; not to mention the countless disfiguring surgical procedures signifying an individual in the deepest well of self-loathing—to call Michael troubled is an understatement.
Perhaps all of the sadness, tragedy, and financial woes of the Jacksons can be traced back to the patriarch. Joe Jackson’s abuse of his family was notorious. From WRTC 103; “Michael was so afraid of his father that he would become physically ill whenever he came near Michael. Michael was known to throw up or faint when his father came near him. He also refused to comfort his children. They weren’t allowed to hug him and they had to call him “Joseph,” not dad or daddy like normal children.” LaToya Jackson accused her father of molesting both her and her sister Rebbie.
There are endless interviews with Joe Jackson where he expresses no regret for his behavior and says he did it to make his children tough.
There are so many lessons to ponder after Joe Jackson’s death: what the cost of astronomical fame can be; the consequences of overspending, no matter how much money one makes; and the lifelong financial and emotional damage an abusive parent can inflict on their children.
Joe Jackson had, some may say, the most significant hand in forming and then introducing incredible talent to the musical world. Yet, by all accounts, he was a tempest as a husband and father whose reported bouts of rage and domestic violence wreaked emotional—and perhaps financial—havoc in his children’s lives.