Hollywood lawyer Howard Weitzman, attorney to Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber, dies

Howard Weitzman, the Hollywood power lawyer perhaps best known for defending Michael Jackson and his estate, has died.

The attorney, whose client list included almost every studio, CAA, William Morris and other major agencies, as well as a long list of stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Britney Spears and Sean Combs, died Sunday night at his home in Pacific Palisades after a battle with cancer. He was 81.

“Howard’s wit, charm, and brilliant legal mind are legendary, and we will miss him dearly,” the Santa Monica law firm he co-founded in 2006, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump LLP, said in a statement. “RIP Howard, you will always be a giant.”

A prominent trial lawyer and dealmaker for half a century, Weitzman deftly defended some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including Hugh Grant and O.J. Simpson.

He defended Jackson and his estate against creditor claims and accusations of pedophilia, most recently prompted by HBO’s 2019 documentary “Leaving Neverland.” After the singer’s death in 2009, Weitzman also led a lawsuit against Lloyd’s of London in a claim against an insurance policy covering the pop star’s planned “This Is It” concert tour. The case was settled in 2014 for an undisclosed amount.

Weitzman was also lead counsel for Chuck Lorre, co-creator of “Two and a Half Men,” against a $100-million lawsuit filed by Charlie Sheen over his termination from TV’s top sitcom. The case was ultimately settled.

He also represented Justin Bieber in a case against Mariah Yeater, who accused Bieber of fathering her child in 2011. The suit was ultimately dropped.

Weitzman was the lead trial attorney in more than 300 civil and criminal jury trials and represented more than 1,000 individuals and companies on such matters as intellectual property, entertainment, family law and estates.

The Angeleno became a national figure in the early 1980s as managing partner of Katten Muchin Zavis & Weitzman when he successfully defended auto executive John DeLorean against federal drug charges.

He left his law practice in 1995 to work for a friend, Ron Meyer, who had been hired as president and chief operating officer at MCA Inc., which owned Universal Studios.

From 1995-98, Weitzman served as vice president of corporate operations for Universal Studios. He was ousted in a management reshuffle under the ownership of Seagram Co. Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. Bronfman acquired a controlling stake in MCA in 1995, which owned Universal Pictures, MCA Music and the Universal Studios theme parks. MCA was renamed Universal Studios in 1996.

Meyer become one of Weitzman’s most recent high-profile clients when the former NBC Universal executive was forced to step down in August after he admitted paying more than $2 million to actress Charlotte Kirk to cover up a previous sexual relationship.

Weitzman was born in Los Angeles in 1939. His first job was working at his parents’ grocery business. He pursued a career in baseball, playing second base for a team that won the national college championship in 1961. After attending Los Angeles City College, he abandoned the idea of a career in the majors and applied to USC Gould School of Law, from which he graduated in 1965.

Weitzman taught trial advocacy at USC’s law school for 12 years. He also lectured at Harvard University, the Georgetown University Law Center and UCLA.

He twice received the Jerry Giesler Memorial Award for outstanding trial lawyer in Los Angeles County.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret Weitzman, and sons Jed and Armen Weitzman.

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