Michael Jackson may be gone, but he’s still breaking records. The king of pop is beat out Elvis Presley as the highest earning deceased celebrity and has brought in so much bank since his June 2009 passing that he’s landed firmly in the No. 1 spot on Forbes’s Top-Earning Dead Celebrities List.
According to Forbes, Jackson’s estate has raked in $275 million over the past 12 months – more than the combined earnings of superstars Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Madonna, and more than any LIVING artist or group.
“The cash flow on an annual basis is tremendous,” says Donald David, an estate lawyer who handled the postmortem finances of rapper Tupac Shakur.
“Sure, it’s going to decline eventually, but it’s going to be a huge amount in the foreseeable future. [Jackson’s] kids are going to have grandkids before that money’s gone.”
The beloved singer’s good fortune is due in large part to licensing deals cut by executors of his estate, a surge in sales of his music catalog and the $250 million box office of his film, “This Is It.”
Susan Blond, Jackson’s publicist during his “Thriller” days says Jackson’s earning potential “will only increase year after year, as his legacy continues to be cemented. When our great-grandchildren are talking about music, it will be Michael Jackson over Elvis Presley.”
Rounding out the list of deceased top earners, in order of rank: Elvis Presley, $60 million; author J.R.R. Tolkien, $50 million; Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, $33 million; John Lennon, $17 million; author Stieg Larsson, $15 million; Dr. Seuss, $11 million; Albert Einstein, $10 million; New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, $8 million; songwriter Richard Rodgers, $7 million; Jimi Hendrix, $6 million; Steve McQueen, $6 million; Aaron Spelling, $5 million. (source)