The late King of Pop, Michael Jackson has vaulted to the top of the list of celebrities whose estates generate millions after his death. According to Forbes magazine list, Jackson is by far the richest dead celebrity, with an estate that brought in more than $275 million over the past 12 months.
It all came from a combination of smart licensing deals cut by the executors of his estate, a huge spike in sales of the singer’s catalog since his June 2009 death and, most important, the $250 million worldwide box-office receipts of the tour rehearsal film “This Is It,” including a $60 million advance from Sony Pictures. Jackson’s music sales alone brought in $50 million thanks to heavy radio play and album sales, along with receipts from a Jackson-themed video game and the re-release of his autobiography, “Moon Walk,” which added another $50 million.
The unprecedented financial numbers could continue to rise, as a deal with Sony Music to issue unreleased recordings, which is expected to happen in November first, being worth another $200 million to $250 million over the next seven years.
Number 2 on the list is king of rock, Elvis Presley, whose receipts shot up $5 million to give him $60 million in the past year thanks to the newly launched Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil show featuring his music as well as the boost in licensed products and merchandise in honor of what would have been his 75th birthday.
“Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien banked $50 million, mainly due to the sales of 500,000 books over the past year, followed by “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz ($33 million) and, rounding out the top 5, “Imagine” singer/songwriter John Lennon ($17 million), whose earnings ballooned 30 years after his murder as a result of the re-release of his solo catalog, licensing deals with Cisco and Mont Blanc and receipts from “Beatles Rock Band” as well.