, the new documentary about the late INXS singer Michael Hutchence, sheds new light on his music, his string of high-profile relationships and his untimely suicide in a Sydney hotel room in 1997.
Built around candid interviews with friends, family and lovers — including Helena Christensen and Kylie Minogue — the film portrays Hutchence as a sweet-natured dreamer, whose charisma took INXS from Sydney pubs to Wembley Stadium before his life came to an abrupt end. It's a detailed and moving insight into one of rock's great frontmen. But one area of Hutchence's life left unresolved by the film is the issue of his missing millions.
Despite selling an estimated 60 million albums, including 1987's 20 million-selling Kick, Hutchence died almost penniless. An executor's report sent to his family eight years after his death stated that the 37-year-old had just $506 at the time of his death, and his share of INXS's bank balance was $572.
Although the band's popularity had waned by the mid-90s, it beggars belief that one of the world's biggest rock stars could die with so little. So what happened? The millions, of course, existed; industry estimates put Hutchence's earnings at between US$10 million and US$20 million ($15.7m-$30m).
Did he spend it all? Or are rumours of a cocktail of opaque investments, characters with questionable motives, shelter companies in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, rock star excess and a lack of sensible oversight, the answer? Either way, it has meant that Hutchence's family, including Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, his 23-year-old daughter with the late TV presenter Paula Yates, has received next to nothing.
Although Mystify doesn't delve into Hutchence's finances, Richard Lowenstein, the film's director — who was close friends with the singer — has spoken to Tiger Lily, as Hutchence's daughter is now known, about her father's financial affairs. Lowenstein says all Tiger Lily has received from Hutchence's former business manager, Colin Diamond, who oversaw his earnings and was a coexecutor of his will, is an envelope containing £500 ($1000).
"The one thing [Tiger] is quite disturbed about, is that there doesn't seem to be any legal or financial acknowledgement that she's her father's daughter," the director told the No Filter with Mia Freedman podcast in June.
"I was saying, 'Maybe [the money's] still going to come to you when you're 25' and she — when she'd stopped laughing — said, 'We've given up on that'," he told the podcast.
Details of Hutchence's supposed financial arrangements have emerged piecemeal over the years. Certain strands are contained in Just a Man, a 2000 biography by his sister Tina Hutchence and late mother Patricia Glassop. More information came out when the executors of his will released a report in 2005, and a further tranche of revelations came with the 2017 leaking of the so-called Paradise Papers, a cache of 13.4 million files that highlighted the use of offshore tax havens.
Like so many rock stars, he outsourced his financial management, but continued to spend prodigiously.
What remains unclear is whether he intended assets he bought should remain his or whether he was, in effect, giving them away. Through advisers, he is thought to have set up trust funds with company names in tax havens to lighten his tax burden. His name would not necessarily be on the trusts, unless in a beneficiary capacity. Royalty cheques could be paid into such trusts, Tina said.
Hutchence is thought to have paid for some assets in cash before their ownership was transferred into the trusts — including houses, a bowling alley and myriad cars.
His music rights were held through a British Virgin Islands company called Chardonnay Investments.
Shortly after Tiger Lily was born, Hutchence rewrote his will. After charity donations to Amnesty International and Greenpeace, he bequeathed 50 per cent of his assets to Tiger — which she would not see until she was 25 — and the remainder to five family members. The will's executors were Andrew Paul, who was Hutchence's Hong Kong-based accountant, and his former business manager, Colin Diamond.
After Hutchence's death in 1997, the tangled reality of his financial situation became clear.
In December 1997, Tina faxed her brother's executors requesting use of a French villa her brother had bought. The reply she got shocked her. "It stated that Michael had never in his lifetime owned a villa in the south of France," Tina wrote.
"Over the following three months, we would be told that Michael's London home was not his, nor did he own a Peugeot, an Aston Martin, a Mercedes Jeep, a Cherokee Jeep, a Bentley, a Ducati motorcycle or various other vehicles I knew to be his."
A home on the Isle of Capri — even though listed as his domicile at the time of his death — the bowling alley and other tracts of land "were also evidently figments of our imagination", Tina wrote.
Further, not even Hutchence's ongoing income from the publishing and performing rights of his music belonged to him. In other words, nothing that Hutchence "owned" was technically his. "It was as if he had never existed," his sister noted.
Of course, Hutchence is not the first rock star to lose his money. Fleetwood Mac co-founder Mick Fleetwood has said he's "lost count" of how many times he's been made bankrupt. Artists from Marvin Gaye to MC Hammer have filed for bankruptcy, and Sting, Alanis Morissette and Leonard Cohen all lost varying degrees of their fortunes over the years. The list goes on. And it will no doubt grow as musicians focus on what they're good at — making music — rather than running their financial affairs. But this will provide little succour to Tiger Lily and Hutchence's family, who are yet to receive anything.
For the time being, the whereabouts of Hutchence's millions will continue to mystify.