Michael Jackson had seemingly secured his future by 1991 when, in the wake of his Dangerous album, he signed the most lucrative recording contract in the history of the entertainment industry.

According to his record company Sony, that one deal alone could eventually have been worth $1billion to the singer.

At the age of 33, Michael Jackson was wealthy almost beyond imagination. He was watching his fortune grow, keeping a constant eye on cash flow, and paying close attention to accounting statements.

He had shrewdly acquired a catalogue of songs, including the music of The Beatles as well as his own hits, and that catalogue was doubling in value annually, spinning off millions in earnings.

Beneath the breathy voice and halting manner, he was as good a businessman as any artist who had ever lived. ‘Part of him may be a ten-year-old, with all the enthusiasm that implies,’ his lawyer John Branca once said. ‘But the other part is a 60-year-old genius.’

Yet the Michael Jackson who existed after August 1993 was a different man. That same year, he had begun to use pills and injections to fight his insomnia after he paid more than $18million to settle claims of child sexual molestation brought by the family of Jordan Chandler. And in the years following, shopping and spending became as addictive for Michael as any opiate.

By the mid-Nineties, his net worth was estimated to be as high as $1billion. Millions were still pouring in each year - but now even more was pouring out. Those who worked for him described seeing Jackson leaf through a magazine and order every single product advertised in it.

Nearing middle age, he seemed irresistibly drawn to projects that much of the public found laughable. In 1996, he announced a ‘family values’ global entertainment empire whose projects included plans to create a theme-park home for all British cows afflicted with mad cow disease. Soon after, the singer showed up in Warsaw, where he announced a $500million World Of Childhood amusement park, to be built with the co-operation of the Polish government.

In 1998, he reportedly became the first customer to place an order for a $75,000 per bottle ‘limited edition’ perfume being licensed as ‘the ultimate symbol of indulgence’. It would be sold in a flask made from platinum, gold and diamonds, packaged in a walnut box that could be opened only with a gold, diamond, and ruby key.

Jackson placed a deposit on two bottles: one for himself, one for his dear friend Elizabeth Taylor. The following year, he paid $1.54million at auction for the Oscar that producer David O Selznick received for Gone With The Wind. Less than a year later, Beverly Hills jeweller David Orgell sued Jackson for non-payment on a $1.9million Vacheron watch. The singer tried to return the timepiece but Orgell said it was scratched.                                                –DM