Merchant to Jacko: Pay Up!

Michael Jackson may call himself the King of Pop, but to one Beverly Hills merchant, he’s a deadbeat bum. David Orgell, a Rodeo Drive boutique dealing in luxury (read: muy expensive) items and catering to upper-crust clients, filed a $1-million-plus lawsuit today against the music icon, saying he failed to pay for a Vacheron Constantine all-diamond watch as agreed.

Ali Soltani, manager of the store, tells that he let Jackson take the watch home for a few days in December, giving him time to decide whether to drop about $1.4 million on the timepiece.

“I spoke with him a few days later, and asked if it was a green light or a red light,” Soltani said, “and he said, ‘What is there not to like about this watch?’ We sent an invoice to his agent, as we usually do. But usually they pay us for the merchandise. In this case, they didn’t.”

Jackson later bought some gift items and owed about $1.9 million. Soltani says that when he asked Jackson‘s camp to cough up some cash, the singer made just a partial payment, and then the watch was finally returned, via a Brinks courier, on April 13.

“There was a note from one of Mr. Jackson‘s handlers, saying he appreciates the artistic value of the watch but has decided against making the purchase,” Soltani says. “That’s wrong — he had agreed back in December, and the watch was returned in a used manner. It had scratches … we could tell it was used.”

Soltani has hired attorney Robert Shapiro, he of the O.J. Simpson defense team, to handle the case. Jackson‘s attorney, Lynne Mallya, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Soltani adds that Jackson‘s been a client of his for about 10 years and has purchased stuff such as tableware, antiques, silver, jewelry and other high-priced what-nots.

Perhaps next time he needs a watch, Jackson ought to consider a Casio. They’re reliable … and much cheaper.