AEG Live's CEO said he "slapped" and "screamed" at Michael Jackson because the promoter was "nerve-racked" before the public announcement of Jackson's comeback concerts.
Randy Phillips, testifying in the Jackson wrongful death trial, recounted that it was "a miracle" that a "drunk and despondent" Jackson finally appeared at the London event.
Phillips, who faced a fourth day of questioning Monday, described "a highly charged situation" after the show director, production manager and Jackson's doctor observed that the singer was declining just five days before Jackson's death.
Michael Jackson's mother and children accuse concert promoter AEG Live of liability in Jackson's drug overdose death, claiming the agency negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Phillips and other AEG Live executives ignored "red flags" that should have alerted them that Jackson's health was at risk as they pressured him and his doctor to stop missing rehearsals as the "This Is It" tour premiere approached in the summer of 2009, Jackson lawyers argue.
Jackson, not AEG Live, chose and controlled Murray, company lawyers argue. Although they negotiated a contract to pay Murray $150,000 a month to attend to Jackson, it was never fully executed because Jackson died before they signed, they contend.
AEG executives -- including Co-CEO Paul Gongaware, who had managed Jackson's last two tours -- had no way of knowing that Jackson was abusing drugs, especially the surgical anesthetic propofol, which the coroner ruled played the largest role in his death, AEG Live lawyers argue.
Murray told investigators he was infusing propofol into Jackson nearly every night to treat his insomnia so Jackson would be rested for rehearsals.
Director worried Jackson didn't get "enough sleep"
Phillips acknowledged for the first time Monday that he was aware of concerns that Jackson was not getting enough sleep when he and show director Kenny Ortega met with Murray and Michael Jackson on June 20, 2009.
The meeting in Jackson's living room was called after Ortega sent Jackson home from a rehearsal because he was to ill to perform.
Ortega raised his concerns at the meeting, Phillips said in a video of his deposition played for jurors Monday. "He said he was concerned Michael wasn't focused, wasn't taking it seriously enough. He was concerned whether he was getting enough food, enough sleep, things like that."
After the meeting, Phillips wrote to other AEG executives, "We have a real problem here."
"But I didn't know what the problem was," he testified Monday.
Murray "pretty much assured us that Michael Jackson was fine," Phillips said.
It was agreed at the meeting that Murray would be responsible for getting Jackson to rehearsals, he said.
"You didn't have any idea of Dr. Murray's qualifications to address Kenny Ortega's concerns?" Jackson lawyer Brian Panish asked Phillips.
"Other than being Michael Jackson's physician, no," he said.
When Phillips spoke to Murray for 25 minutes the morning of June 20, 2009, the doctor told him that Jackson was "physically equipped to perform" at rehearsals, but "if we stop the production, it would hasten the decline," Phillips testified.
Production manager John "Bugzee" Houghdahl sent an e-mail days earlier saying that he was alarmed by Jackson's "deterioration."
"I don't believe Dr. Murray put it exactly that way," Phillips testified.
"Please stay steady," Phillips wrote to Ortega about the show director's concerns. "Enough alarms have sounded. It is time to put out the fire, not burn the building down." By "burning down the building," he meant pulling the plug on the tour that was set to begin in three weeks, Phillips said Monday.
"In a highly charged situation like this, I just wanted to keep things calm until we could have the meeting," Phillips testified.
Doctor frequented strip club before Jackson's death