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Michael Jackson-backed start-up cuts staff

As part of a strategy shift, interactive entertainment company lays off four of its 12 employees.

As part of a shift in its strategy, an interactive entertainment start-up that pop singer Michael Jackson invested in last spring laid off four of its 12 employees.

The layoffs at came last week as the company makes plans to drop its consumer business and shift toward helping celebrities market to their fans, chief executive Derek Rundell said.

"We will become a compass for what entertainers should do on the Net," Rundell said. "We will help them get in touch with their fan base."

HollywoodTicket joins a growing list of media and entertainment companies that have labored to find the right formula to entice an audience. So far, most have failed. In recent weeks, Webcasting company Pseudo Programs and, backed by Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard, ceased operations.

But lately, it has not been unusual for Internet companies to experiment with different business models. HollywoodTicket has been among those grappling with finding a business strategy, said Jackson's attorney Mark Hanson and sources close to the company.

Hanson said he and the so-called King of Pop were told that the company is still striving to define its strategy and has not fully launched yet.

But Rundell said HollywoodTicket operates under a highly thought-out plan and is changing its course only because of the downturn in the capital markets.

Hanson said Jackson "remains hopeful that HollywoodTicket can develop and implement a business plan to maximize the opportunity available from the Internet." He also said that for Jackson, the investment was a small one.

The musician invested several million dollars in HollywoodTicket, according to the company.