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Jacko: Touring for Dollars?

Sure, his much hyped comeback album Invincible proved anything but-that’s not stopping Michael Jackson from dusting off his moonwalking shoes and gearing up to launch what will be his first North American trek since 1993’s Dangerous tour.

Jackson-who has done one-off shows in recent months, including a two-night tribute to himself at Madison Square Garden last fall and a September 11 benefit concert-apparently hopes the tour will goose his flagging album sales, according to the New York Post.

The singer has not publicly announced any tour, although the music world has been abuzz for months with the prospect.

In January, concert promoter Marcel Avram-who oversaw Jackson’s 1992-93 Dangerous and 1996-97 HIStory world tours-sued the singer for allegedly reneging on an agreement to promote his next tour. In the complaint, filed in Santa Barbara, California, Superior Court, Avram said he believed Jackson was negotiating with unidentified other parties regarding the tour.

This week, reports in Billboard and the Post also hint at the Jacko tour, with Billboard saying the singer will do a “limited run in May.”

In any case, the curiosity factor is bound to be high if or when Jacko unveils his tour plans.

“It can’t be a bad thing for the concert business at all. He’s another headliner who hasn’t been seen by the public in a long time,” says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert trade Pollstar. “How big [his tour will be] remains to be seen. But I suspect that he would be a pretty solid arena-level act…as long as he doesn’t get ridiculous with his ticket prices.”

The 43-year-old Jackson has eschewed hitting the concert circuit in the States ever since being dogged by controversy that he molested a 13-year-old boy at his Neverland Ranch in the early ’90s. While no criminal charges were ever filed and Jackson reached an out-of-court settlement with the boy’s family, the singer has since only toured abroad.

But with Invincible selling a relatively meager 1.8 million copies, according to SoundScan, and his first single, “You Rock My World,” failing to rock anybody’s world on radio or the charts, Jackson may be ready to reconsider his self-imposed North American tour ban.

Another possible reason for the tour, according to various reports: Jackson needs the money. Invincible supposedly cost Jackson the off-the-wall sum of $40 million to produce.

Foxnews.com also says Jackson’s label, the Sony-owned Epic Records, is looking for Jacko to pay off his debt with the company.

Jackson reportedly is considering allowing Sony to buy the remainder of the Lennon-McCartney Beatles catalog from him-an amount estimated to be worth anywhere from $400 to $600 million-and arguably the most valuable collection of tunes in the world.

Sony already owns half of the catalog, having purchased it from Jackson for $100 million in 1991 (the singer famously beat out former moptop Paul McCartney and bought the collection from Sir Lew Grade’s estate in 1985 for $47.5 million).

Then in the mid-’90s, with his record sales declining and legal bills mounting, Jackson asked the record giant to back a $200 million loan he took out with lenders. In exchange, he put up the other half of the collection as collateral.

Now, Foxnews.com reports Sony Music Publishing president Richard Rowe has said it’s time for Jackson to finally pay off those outstanding debts. “Sony will either make [Jackson] a cash offer for the catalog or just call the note,” Foxnews quotes an unnamed source. “But it’s going to happen. Richard Rowe is on the phone with them all the time.”

Sony is pressing to close the deal by March 31, when the company’s fiscal year comes to an end.

The sale won’t help console McCartney, who has made two failed efforts to buy back the Beatles’ classic collection in the last 20 years and will be on the sidelines once again when this current deal goes through. However, he and John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, will still receive piles of dough because the publisher is required to split profits with the songwriters.

And despite Jackson’s financial problems, a rep for Epic tells the Post that under his current deal, the eccentric popster still has “two more records with us. He isn’t going anywhere.”

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