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Acquittal 'Crucial' for Michael Jackson Comeback, Experts Say

For decades, entertainer Michael Jackson's nickname was "the King of Pop". But in recent years his legal problems and declining record sales have threatened his crown. Michael Jackson was five-years-old when he and his older brothers became the Jackson Five and made a string of record-breaking hits. Now that the jury has acquitted him of child molestation charges, many people wonder where the singer's career is headed now.

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson has been out on his own as a solo artist since 1979, and looking back, music analysts say that early period will likely remain the peak of his career. In 1982, 40 million copies of Jackson's Thriller album were sold, reportedly worth $115 million in sales.

By 2001, however, his album entitled Invincible cost $30 million to make, but sold only a few million copies. It has been downhill since then. Michael Jackson's public appearances these days are primarily on his way in and out of court.

Peter Morissey, a reputation management specialist, says he needs more than an acquittal to count on a comeback: "I think this will be a very difficult case for him to return and regain the public trust," he said.

In 1988, the entertainer paid $17 million for the Neverland Ranch outside Santa Barbara, California. Now there are reports that Michael Jackson's extravagant spending habits, combined with his declining record sales and legal costs, may force him to sell the property. He has missed several payroll payments to employees in recent months.

Brett Pulley of Forbes magazine says it has been hard for Michael Jackson to break old habits. "Michael has spent as if he was continuing to make the kind of money he was making in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was making $60-70-80 million a year from his own music."

Michael Jackson has associated with celebrities and world leaders: Actress Elizabeth Taylor and South African leader Nelson Mandela. Yet despite the scandals surrounding him, photographers and fans still throng to capture his every move. Even before his trial began in February 2005, Michael Jackson's transformation through plastic surgery, as well as his unusual behavior, such as dangling a son over a balcony in Berlin, had attracted headlines.

Celebrity watchers say the strain of the trial has aged Michael Jackson. He appears weaker and thinner since the arraignment in 2004.

Music industry executive Bruno Del Granado says the painful truth is that there are now other 'kings' of pop who relate to a younger audience. "The average age of artists that are getting played on pop radio is 20, Michael Jackson is 46."

Because Michael Jackson has been acquitted, many show business experts believe the singer can continue to make money as an entertainer. But they also agree, the climb back to the top will be very difficult.