MICHAEL Jackson was described as "an emotionally paralysed mess" by the promoters of his comeback tour in the run-up to his death, according to secret emails.
The emails highlight his extremely brittle emotional state in advance of his planned 2009 tour, and they detail how backers feared for the superstar's stability. They also expressed concern that he was out of shape and consumed with self-doubt.
The exchanges were published by the 'Los Angeles Times'. The newspaper obtained some 250 pages of messages, most between executives at Anschutz Entertainment Group, which was financing the ill-fated "This Is It" concerts set for London.
Some of the emails indicated that executives were concerned that Jackson's planned 50-show stand at AEG's O2 Arena would be an expensive bust.
In one exchange, AEG's Randy Phillips wrote his boss that Jackson was "an emotionally paralysed mess." Phillips was writing from Jackson's London hotel suite just hours before a press conference announcing the concert run.
"MJ is locked in his room drunk and despondent," Mr Phillips said in an email to AEG president Tim Leiweke. "I (am) trying to sober him up."
In the end, the emails show, Mr Phillips and Jackson's manager had to dress the pop star, 'the Times' said. "He is scared to death," Phillips wrote to Leiweke.
Jackson arrived 90 minutes late for the press conference and made brief remarks that some of the 350 reporters described as odd and disjointed.
In an interview with the newspaper, AEG's attorney Marvin Putnam suggested Mr Phillips had exaggerated in his emails and said Jackson's behaviour appeared to be a case of "nerves".
'The Times' said the messages will probably play a key role in two lawsuits set for trial next year. The shows' insurers are asking a judge to nullify a $17.5m (€13.9m) policy they say AEG got with false claims about Jackson's health and readiness to perform. And Jackson's heirs filed a wrongful-death suit accusing the entertainment giant of pressuring him to carry on with a comeback despite indications he was too weak.
Lawyers for AEG, which has denied any wrongdoing, told 'The Times' most of the correspondence was produced as discovery in ongoing litigation. They said the messages reviewed by the newspaper were incomplete and leaked to portray the company in a negative light.