Howard Weitzman, a Hollywood attorney whose clients included celebrities Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber and O.J. Simpson, died Sunday of cancer. He was 81.
Weitzman died at his home in Pacific Palisades, California, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Weitzman was best known for defending Jackson and his estate. His client list also included nearly every studio and major talent agency, as well as Hugh Grant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Britney Spears and Sean “Diddy” Combs, the newspaper reported.
“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.”
Weitzman represented automaker John DeLorean in the 1980s and originally was Simpson’s defense attorney after the former college and NFL Hall of Famer was arrested in 1994 in connection with the death of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Weitzman originally told the media that Simpson was on a flight to Chicago at the time of the murders, then backed out of the case, citing a heavy workload, the website reported.
Weitzman defended Jackson and his estate against creditor claims and accusations of pedophilia, the Times reported. After Jackson died in 2009, Weitzman 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, according to the newspaper.
“It’s been a real roller coaster ride,” Weitzman told The Hollywood Reporter in 2010. “Not a week goes by where something strange doesn’t happen. There are consistent claims by people claiming to be Michael’s wife or child.”
The case was settled in 2014 for an undisclosed amount.
“We are heartbroken at the passing of our friend and colleague Howard Weitzman,” John McClain, John Branca and Jackson’s estate said in a statement. “Howard has always been a relentless fighter for righteous causes and ferociously fought for Michael during his lifetime and after.”
Weitzman represented Bieber in his case against Mariah Yeater, who accused the singer of fathering her child in 2011, the Times reported. The lawsuit was ultimately dropped.
According to the Times, Weitzman was the lead 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.
Weitzman was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 21, 1939. His first job was working at his parents’ grocery business, the Times reported. He graduated from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law in 1965, the newspaper reported.
Weitzman taught trial advocacy at USC’s law school for 12 years, according to the Times. He also lectured at Harvard University, the Georgetown University Law Center and UCLA.