It was a massive piece of news in the summer of 2009 when Disney announced the acquisition of Marvel Entertainment. However, a story that has long been going around pop culture circles is that the company could have been purchased more than a decade previously, by one Michael Jackson.
As the story goes, Michael Jackson was a huge fan of Spider-Man. To the point that, in the 1990s, before the first movie starring Tobey MaGuire was made, Jackson wanted to make a Spider-Man movie, and even play the lead. Stan Lee has said that Jackson once approached him, looking to procure the rights to Spider-Man, but when Lee told Jackson he would need to go to Marvel, the story goes that Jackson then considered buying Marvel outright.
Recently, Popcorned Planet spoke with Michael Jackson's nephew Taj, and the nephew has confirmed the story that Jackson did enter into a legitimate attempt to purchase the comic publisher, not simply acquire the rights to Spider-Man, claiming that his uncle had specifically mentioned the plan to him, although nothing ever came of it.
It was Marvel and I remember that. I remember being with my brothers and him talking about purchasing Marvel. He wanted to do that with Stan Lee. They had been talking and discussing that. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, I think they were shut down from doing that. I don’t know the reasons why but they were adamantly in the process of doing that.
The most interesting piece of information here may not be the confirmation that Michael Jackson tried to purchase Marvel, but that, according to Taj Jackson, he tried to do it with Stan Lee. It's not a bad plan, if you're going to buy a comic publisher, you'll want to be sure you have people with experience in that working alongside you.
Needless to say, the entire movie industry would look quite different today if that sale had happened. Not only would we apparently have ended up with a Spider-Man movie starring Michael Jackson, but we might not have the MCU that we know today. Michael Jackson died in June 2009, two months before the Disney/Marvel deal was announced. There's certainly no guarantee that Jackson would have had any interest in selling Marvel at that point. Even if he had, his health issues a death likely would have derailed the purchase, much as Jim Henson's death stopped the sale of the Muppets to Disney in 1990.
Of course, if we're playing the "What if" game, we know that Disney at least floated the idea of buying Marvel years before the company actually did. Disney and Jackson could have found themselves in a bidding war, which certainly would have been interesting.
Michael Jackson was a big fan of Disney too, even working on the Captain EO attraction in the parks at one point, so maybe, even if Jackson had bought Marvel, Disney would have ended up with the company eventually, but it likely would have been much later, delaying everything we've seen to this point by years.