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Discredited Montreal publisher back in business with new Jackson bio

Montreal publisher Pierre Turgeon “ who pleaded guilty last March to charges of fraud “ appears to have rebounded from the bankruptcy of his old publishing firm, Trait d’union. Not only is he back with a new publishing venture, called Transit Publishing, he may well have hit the jackpot with one of his initial releases: a new biography of Michael Jackson, which will include about 50 pages of material pertaining to the pop star’s death.

According to Turgeon, the book, originally titled Michael Jackson: Return from Exile, was submitted to the printer last Wednesday, the day before Jackson died. On the following evening, Turgeon stopped the presses so that author Ian Halperin could have a few days to whip up additional material about the last weeks of Jackson’s life and the circumstances surrounding his death. The revised version, which goes to press today and is likely to arrive in stores late next week, is titled Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson.

Turgeon says that Halperin “ an investigative journalist who has published unauthorized bios of Kurt Cobain, Céline Dion, and several other celebrities “ spent five years researching and writing the book and had intimate access to Jackson and his entourage. A lengthy excerpt of the new material has been published online by the U.K.’s Daily Mail and will reportedly be excerpted in a future issue of US magazine.

Turgeon’s former creditors, who were left in the lurch for at least $1.7-million when Trait d’union went bankrupt in 2005, must have been shocked to see his name in the headlines so soon after the unseemly demise of his last publishing venture. In March, when Turgeon pleaded guilty to fraud charges in a Quebec court, he was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and to do several hours of community service. (Incredibly, the judge in the case decreed that Turgeon should spend time teaching the value of reading to schoolchildren.) Turgeon’s former partner in Trait d’union, Julien Beliveau “ who successfully sued Turgeon for more than $600,000 but has yet to see a penny “ said he is appalled that Turgeon is allowed to be back in business. It is just beyond belief, he told Q&Q. Beliveau added that because Transit Publishing is an entirely separate company, he is unable to bring a new lawsuit against it. [Turgeon] can do whatever he wants. He is off the hook.

Remarkably, this isn’t the first time that Transit has been in the news since it was founded in February. Another of its titles, a controversial biography of the founder of Cirque du Soleil, entitled Guy Laliberté: The Fabulous Story of the Creator of Cirque du Soleil (also written by Halperin), recently landed Turgeon in legal trouble over the unauthorized use of a photo of a trapeze artist on the front cover, and had to be reissued with a new cover. An excerpt from the book generated significant controversy when it was printed in Maclean’s earlier this month.

Transit currently employs four full-time staffers, including Turgeon and his son, François.