THE FORTRESS-JACKSON CONNECTION

What is it with Fortress Investment Group and Michael Jackson? Every time the Gloved One gets into trouble, there's the Publicly Traded One with an open cheque book.

In 2005, Fortress was initially instrumental in helping the embattled singer avoid bankruptcy when it purchased $270 million in debt held by Bank of America. Fortress refinanced the loan, backed by Jackson's 50 percent stake in Sony/ATV Music, the owner of highly valuable publishing rights to songs by the Beatles, Bob Dylan and others. Some saw Fortress' loan as a bet that Jackson would default and cede ownership of the music catalogue to the private investment giant, which listed on the NYSE last year. But before defaulting, Jackson sold an option for part of his ownership in the music to Sony.

Now reports claim that Fortress has struck a confidential deal with Jackson to save him from auctioning off his famed Neverland ranch in Los Olivos, California. The singer reportedly owes $24.5 million on the ranch. Presumably if Jackson fails to keep up payments to Fortress, the firm will gain ownership of the property, which includes a zoo, bumper cars and a Ferris wheel, among other, mostly juvenile, attractions.

Given the choice between seizing ownership of the rights to Yesterday versus the one-time home of Bubbles the chimp and Louie the llama, we have to say our taste lies with the former option.

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“When you look back at things, we hope people will say this was not Carlyle's darkest hour. We hope people will look back and say this is a very strong hour for Carlyle. We will help investors. We will be transparent about our mistakes and will be careful to recognize what we can do to improve our performance in the future.” Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, quoted in the Washington Post, remains optimistic in the wake of the collapse of a $22 billion mortgage-backed securities fund the private equity firm floated last year. Carlyle has pledged to compensate investors hit by the collapse.