Michael Jackson remains highest-earning dead celebrity

King of pop heads Forbes' list of high-earners at £88m a year

Updated: 
Jackson AEG Suit Glance

It takes some doing to earn $140 million in a year - especially if you're dead. But Michael Jackson did exactly that last year, thanks to the launch of his second posthumous album, Xscape.

According to Forbes, he was the highest-earning dead celebrity last year. And having shuffled off this mortal coil hasn't even stopped him appearing on stage, with a hologram of the singer performing at this year's Billboard Music Awards in May.

But much of the money came from Jackson's music catalogue and publishing empire - half of Sony/ATV - along with two Cirque du Soleil shows, Immortal and One. Both feature Jackson's music and were created through a partnership with the Jackson estate. Immortal was one of the ten top grossing tours of all time.

Despite his death at the age of 50 in 2009, "Few celebrities prove the point that there is (financial) life after death better than Michael Jackson," says Forbes staffer Dorothy Pomerantz.

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Michael Jackson


Jackson beats the second-highest earner - the father of his second wife Marie Presley - by a comfortable margin. Elvis Presley brought in around $55 million during the year, thanks to his extensive back catalogue and the hundreds of thousands of people who visit Graceland each year.

Cartoonist Charles Schulz - creator of the Peanuts comic strip - ranks third with earnings of $40 million, followed by Elizabeth Taylor, with $25 million in earnings and Bob Marley with an estimated $20 million.

The list is little changed from last year, although actor James Dean now comes in at number 10 with $7 million, replacing Mexican-American pop singer Jenni Rivera. Rivera is now listed as a "near miss", along with musicians Kurt Cobain, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix and composer Richard Rodgers.

Forbes compiled the list by talking to estate managers, agents, music publishers and others to come up with estimates of what each estate brought in between October 2013 and October 2014. Taxes, management fees and the like aren't taken into account. Between them, it says, the top-earning 13 dead celebrities earned $363.5 million.

Forbes' top-earning dead celebrities, 2013-14

1. Michael Jackson: $140 million
2. Elvis Presley: $55 million
3. Charles Schulz: $40 million
4. Elizabeth Taylor: $25 million
5. Bob Marley: $20 million
6. Marilyn Monroe: $17 million
7. John Lennon: $12 million
8. Albert Einstein: $11 million
9= Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) : $9 million
9= Bruce Lee: $9 million
9= Steve McQueen: $9 million
9= Bettie Page: $9 million
10. James Dean: $7 million

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