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Michael Jackson’s Friend in Deed

CABIN CRUISER

In the aftermath of his trial, one might expect MichaelJackson’s high-profile friends to back away at his limping approach. But not billionaire Democratic financier and grocery storekingpin Ron Burkle. A longtime friend of Jackson’s,Burkle reportedly helped the singer renegotiate his $300 million debt in a waythat wouldn’t force him to sell his half of the Beatles’ songcatalog. Now that Jackson’s been acquitted, Burkle has turned hisattentions on his pale-faced pal’s declining mental health, we hear.

“Michael is on his way to Switzerland for medical treatments, and thenhe’s off to spend time on Burkle’s yacht,” says a source closeto Jackson. “Ron thinks that Michael needs time to relax and get away fromall that kiddie porn and pedophile nonsense.” Our source says the yacht(which Burkle, who’s worth $2.3 billion, apparently leases) is the sameone he uses to entertain former president Bill Clinton, hisclose friend and paid consultant. Burkle’s spokesman, FrankQuintero, declined to comment on his boss’s fondness for theradioactive singer, but the magnate is hardly the first Forbes-listerto help keep Jackson’s finances and bizarre lifestyle afloat over theyears. For those keeping track, Jackson’s unlikely past benefactors include:

•Saudi prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, rankedfifth-richest man in the world by Forbes for his $23.7 billion fortune.Al-Walid partnered with Jackson in Kingdom Entertainment, a consortium devoted to building children’s theme parks andother family-oriented ventures, in 1996. The two later had a falling out. (Years later,the prince gained further notoriety by offering a $10 million donation to NewYork City in the wake of the 9/11 while at the same time insisting on theU.S.’s culpability for the attack. Then-mayor Rudy Giuliani returned thecheck.)

• South Korea–based investor Myung-HoLee who, as Jackson’s business adviser, helped him secure a $200million loan from Bank of America. Jackson reportedly spent part of the moneymaking astronomical payments to faith healers for large-scale animal sacrificesin his name. (Lee eventually sued Jackson for millions of dollars the singerowed him. The case was settled.)

Photo: NYDN

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