Dead and rich: Michael Jackson tops Forbes list

Last Updated 26 October 2010, 07:03 IST

During his life, Jackson was never featured in Forbes' annual Celebrity 100 list. In death however, he earned more in the past year than any star on this year's Celebrity 100 list, apart from media czar Oprah Winfrey.

With gross earnings of USD 275 million, Jackson not only took the number one spot on Forbes' 10th annual ranking of the 'Top Earning Dead Celebrities,' but he also out-earned the other 12 deceased stars on the list combined including Elvis Presley and the Beatles legend John Lennon.

Jackson died on June 25 last year at the age of 50. His posthumous earnings come from renewed fan interest in his music, videos and "all things Michael Jackson."
Forbes said his USD 275 million total was greater than the pooled earnings of this year's two biggest living acts by rock bands U2 and AC/DC, combined.

"Jackson's posthumous earnings have been bolstered by shrewd negotiations by his estate, including a merchandising deal and the rights to his name and likeness for the Sony film 'This Is It,' which grossed over a quarter of a billion dollars," Forbes added.

The 13 stars on the Forbes list earned USD 506 million from "beyond the grave" for the period between October 2009- October 2010.

"Many dead celebrities make the bulk of their posthumous fortunes on licensing deals. Unlike their living counterparts, who can suddenly fall into a heap of trouble (Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson), dead celebrities have images-be they glamourous, rebellious or tough-that are unlikely to change," Forbes said.

Coming in at the number two spot is the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley, whose income ballooned to USD 60 million between October 2009 and October 2010.
Presley's income grew thanks to admissions to his estate and mansion Graceland in Tennessee and the Elvis Presley Cirque du Soleil that was launched in Las Vegas earlier this year. Presley died in 1977 at the age of 42.

"His portfolio of more than 200 licensing and merchandise deals got a nice boost from the late star's 75th birthday celebration. Commemorative events included Graceland exhibits, touring tribute concerts and an Elvis-themed cruise to the Bahamas," Forbes added.

Creator of the comic strip Peanuts, Charles Schulz earned USD 33 million last year and comes in at the number four spot. The 77-year old cartoonist died in 2000 from colon cancer. His earnings continues to come from his comic strip, which appears in 2,200 newspapers across 75 countries.

The Beatles' John Lennon, who died in 1980, is number five on the list with earnings of USD 17 million. "In what would have been his 70th year, music company EMI has launched the 'Gimme Some Truth' campaign, re-releasing much of Lennon's catalouge, resulting in several Top 10 chart appearances," Forbes said.
His estate still earns from the 'Beatles Rock Band' videogame and licensing deals with Cisco and Mont Blanc.

Stieg Larsson, author of the bestselling book 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' debuts on this year's list at number six with USD 18 million in earnings.

The Swedish writer died in 2004 at the age of 50, before 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' was published, "so he didn't live to see the incredible success of his series of three books, known as The Millennium Trilogy." They have since sold 40 million copies, been translated into 44 languages and spawned three hit Swedish movies.
A fourth book by the author has reportedly been found. Sony is producing American films based on the books, with a movie on 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' scheduled to hit theaters next December. The film will be directed by David Fincher and stars Bond actor Danial Craig.

On the number 8 spot is scientist Albert Einstein, who is "associated with all things intelligent." His earnings totalled USD 10 million.

"Einstein's name continues to be used to peddle Baby Einstein products, a majority Disney-owned venture designed to make infants smarter," Forbes said.
Other lucrative tie-ins include Chrysler's Ram brand truck ads and a collection of A J Morgan 'geek chic' glasses. The scientist's estate has also expanded into videogames with a Nintendo DS brain game that retails for about USD 50.
New to the list is baseball team New York Yankees icon George Steinbrenner, who ranks ninth with earnings of eight million dollars. The legendary owner passed away this summer at the age of 80, but his estate continues to cash in on the team's success.

Other celebrities on the list include 'Lord of the Ring' author J R R Tolkien who is on the number 3 spot with USD 50 million in earnings, song writer Richard Rodgers on number 10 with USD 7 million and actor Steve McQueen on the 11th position with USD 6 million.

For this year's list, Forbes zeroed in on deceased celebrities who earned at least USD 5 million between October 1, 2009 and October 1, 2010.

For the most part, earnings come from music royalties, book sales or the licensing of one's image and likeness. To compile the list, Forbes spoke to agents, lawyers and other sources to estimate a star's gross earnings.

(Published 26 October 2010, 07:03 IST)

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