LONDON (AP) -- It's a tragic loss and an accounting nightmare for the promoters of Michael Jackson's doomed 50-night "This is It" concert extravaganza in London.
More than 750,000 fans are waiting for details on ticket refunds, and the British government's consumer protection board told them Monday not to hold their breath complex legal issues need to be worked out first.
"The advice we're giving is that it may take a little while because it was quite a large ticket distribution," said Frank Shepherd, spokesman for Consumer Direct. "We're advising people to be a bit patient."
In addition, he said ticket holders may not be able to reclaim fees paid to sellers, which in some cases reached $16 per ticket.
The skirmishing over refunds is just one aspect of what is likely to be years of legal wrangling over financial matters, including Jackson's considerable debts, assets and custody of his three children. The battles are likely to dwarf earlier fights for the control of assets left by other departed rock gods, including guitar hero Jimi Hendrix and reggae trailblazer Bob Marley.
Legal arguments over whether insurance companies must shoulder much of the financial burden caused by Jackson's death are expected to slow the refund process, experts said.
Promoters are generally required to take out insurance to cover concert cancellations or non-appearances, said Malcolm Tarling, a spokesman for the Association of British Insurers.
Many of the policies are extremely specific, allocating levels of payouts according to the reason for the cancellation including the cause of any death. If a drug overdose was specified as a risk with lower coverage, AEG may be entitled to less money.
Los Angeles-based tour operator AEG Live, which operates the 02 Arena where Jackson was to have performed, said ticket refund details should be announced this week.
Much of the company's ability to weather the financial storm caused by Jackson's demise may depend on how much of its losses are covered by insurance.
And that will be determined in part by what the Los Angeles County coroner's office finally determines as the cause of the mega-star's death. Officials have warned it will be up to six weeks before a cause of death can be pinpointed because complicated toxicology tests are needed.
AEG Live has so far been tightlipped about the amount of insurance coverage it had for the concerts and which companies were the underwriters. Insurance market Lloyd's of London says its member corporations underwrote some policies, but said AEG likely had multiple contracts, with several insurers all taking on a portion of the risk.
Bart Nash, a spokesman for Lloyd's, said a number of different policies were written to cover the Jackson concerts, each with different clauses that could be affected by the all important "cause of death" determination.
"These things are written into the policies, and each one is different, and these types of contracts are so complex that different issues affect different policies," he said.
That is a recipe for a series of lawsuits that could easily take years to resolve.
Nash said, for example, that some policies would pay out differently if the artist's death was due to a pre-existing medical condition or if any medical negligence were found. "There are so many variables in the policies and all these little things matter," he said.
It is also likely the coroner's determination on whether drugs played a role in Jackson's death could affect insurance payments.
Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc., the primary ticket seller, did not provide details of refund plans on Monday; its Web site quoted an AEG Live statement promising information this week.
While these issues are being worked on, Jackson fans who purchased tickets on eBay or through viagogo on the secondary ticket market may be in for an easier time.
Viagogo executives said Friday that all tickets would be refunded "No forms, no fuss, just refunded." And eBay executives have extended a buyer protection program to cover anyone who bought a ticket through the company's Web site.
"You'll be covered for the full amount of the transaction, not just the face value of the ticket," eBay spokeswoman Jenny Thomas said Monday. That means people who paid three or four times the face value for a chance to see Jackson should get all their money back.
She said the company has not yet worked out details of the refund plan, including whether the company or the ticket sellers would ultimately be responsible for refunds.
Not everyone, it seems, wants a refund. Some want to hold onto the tickets as bittersweet reminders of what might have been or to cash in later should they become collector's items.
Elliott Parkin, a 27-year-old construction worker, said his friends plan to keep their tickets to honor Jackson.
"He'll be remembered for his music above all else," said Parkin, who had planned to attend one of the London shows. "His funeral will be bigger than Diana's."
Associated Press writers Nardine Saas and Paisley Dodds in London contributed to this report.
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