April 18, 2006

Michael Jackson plans new album in 2007: company

LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Jackson, seeking to revive his
singing career after his acquittal on sex-abuse charges, has
teamed up with a label in Bahrain to record a new album set for
release next year, the label said on Tuesday.

A statement released on behalf of Two Seas Records said
British music industry executive Guy Holmes had been named CEO
of a newly formed joint venture between Jackson and Bahrain
royal family member Abdulla Hamad Al-Khalifa.

Holmes, who now plans to divide his time between London and
Bahrain, will oversee the making of Jackson's first studio
album since "Invincible" in 2001, and also manage the star's
business interests, the statement added.

"I am incredibly excited about my new venture, and I am
enjoying being back in the studio making music," Jackson said
in the statement.

The 47-year-old singer, one of the top-selling pop stars of
all time, now lives in the Gulf state of Bahrain.

Holmes is chairman of London-based independent label Gut

Calls to Gut Records seeking more information about the
deal with Jackson were referred back to the public relations
agency that issued that statement, which in turn declined to
make any further comment.

Jackson's U.S. spokeswoman, Raymone Bain, said she was not
aware of a joint venture between Jackson and Al-Khalifa but
said Two Seas had previously been chosen by the star to release
his Hurricane Katrina charity single.

News of Jackson's latest deal comes days after the singer
announced he had reached agreement with creditors to refinance
some $270 million in loans secured by his prized stake in the
Beatles' song catalog.

Part of the deal calls for Sony Corp., which jointly owns
publishing rights to more than 200 Beatles songs with Jackson,
to buy another 25 percent of the catalog, or half of Jackson's
stake. The entire catalog is valued at about $1 billion.

Jackson's trial on sex abuse charges last year shed new
light on the nature of his finances, including prosecution
testimony that Jackson had borrowed heavily against his assets
to support years of extravagant spending.

He was acquitted by a jury last June of all charges
stemming from accusations made by a teenage boy that he had
been molested by Jackson at his Neverland Valley Ranch in
central California.

But his career as an entertainer and recording artist has
been left in shambles.

The fate of the new album will be closely watched by the
record industry after "Invincible," Jackson's previous comeback
bid, registered disappointing U.S. sales of around two million

Jackson's "Thriller" remains one of the bestselling studio
albums of all time with over 26 million U.S. copies sold.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles)