News of the late Michael Jackson
By STAFF: Richard I. Kirkland Jr., David Kirkpatrick, Michael Rogers, Patricia Sellers, H. John Steinbreder, Eleanor Johnson Tracy, Daniel P. Wiener

(FORTUNE Magazine) – PepsiCo sure could use a Thriller of an ad campaign. Last year Coca-Cola Classic edged out Pepsi to become the best-selling U.S. soft drink. Who's Pepsi betting on to win back the fans? Michael Jackson, who on February 24 is scheduled to make his first appearance under a three-year, $10-million deal. Pepsi's 1984 commercials with the 28-year-old song-and-dance superstar caused fireworks; this time they may cause yawns. Four years -- an eternity in rock time -- have passed since Jackson released his record-breaking Thriller album (which brought revenues of more than $100 million to CBS). He was expected to put out a new album last spring but has not yet finished it. Pepsi maintains it is not fretting about the timing of the new release. ''Our interest here is quality,'' says PepsiCo spokesman Ken Ross. But other companies have already been burned by Jackson's punctuality problem. Last fall Max Factor, a division of Revlon, introduced a line of inexpensive Michael Jackson colognes, hoping to catch a whiff of the new album's success. Sales were disastrous. Chuck Sullivan, the lawyer-businessman who lost a bundle when he sponsored the Jacksons' Victory concert tour in 1984, set up Entertainment Properties to market Michael Jackson's name and apparel. Sullivan hoped to sell $80 million of T-shirts and jeans at retail this year. When Macy's and Bloomingdale's introduced the line before Christmas, it sat on the shelves. Now Entertainment Properties is telling manufacturers to hold off on the clothing until Jackson's album is in the bag.