Madonna was the top earner on Forbes’ recent Celebrity 100 list, raking in $125 million, but Michael Jackson easily topped her though, earning $160 million over the past year.
It’s the third time in the past five years that the top-earning celebrity in the world has come from the graveyard.
Much of Michael Jackson’s money comes from two Cirque du Soleil shows. Immortal, a touring show, has grossed over $300 million since opening last year. One, which opened at the Mandalay Bay in May, is routinely sold out. Both shows feature the usual Cirque du Soleil acrobatics but One comes with a bonus: a hologram-like illusion of Michael Jackson performs Man in the Mirror at the end of the show.
Michael Jackson also still earns from his music and his half of the Sony/ATV catalog, which includes hits by The Beatles, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift among others.
The King of Pop reclaims the No. 1 spot on Forbes magazine’s list from his friend Elizabeth Taylor.
Elizabeth Taylor, who passed away in 2011, earned an estimated $210 million in the 12 months to October 2012 thanks to a series of lucrative auctions at Christie’s of Taylor’s art, jewels and clothes. This year her earnings dropped to an estimated $25 million, landing her in fourth place.
Over the past 12 months, Elizabeth Taylor’s estate earned big bucks from her White Diamonds perfume, which in 2012 brought in $53 million in retail in the U.S. alone, according to Euromonitor International, her rights in old movies and her smart stock and real estate investments. Elizabeth Taylor’s estate, now represented by Hollywood talent agency UTA, is at work on several licensing deals. Expect to see Elizabeth Taylor’s name on high-end clothing and cosmetics in the near future.
Forbes magazine’s list looks at earnings between October 2012 and October 2013. The magazine count money coming into the estate and it doesn’t deduct for how the estate handles it. To come up with its estimates Forbes talks to estate managers, licensors and lawyers involved in the dead celebrity business.
Ranking second on our list is Elvis Presley with an estimated $55 million in posthumous earnings. Elvis Presley may have taken a back seat to Michael Jackson, but his estate is still earning steadily thanks to his eternally popular image and his famous home, Graceland. That was enough to convince billionaire Leon Black and his firm, Apollo Global Management, to buy CKX, the parent company of American Idol and the estates of both Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali, for $509 million in 2011.
Forbes Top-Earning Dead Celebrities 2013:
1. Michael Jackson -$160 million
2. Elvis Presley – $55 million
3. Charles Schulz – $37 million
4. Elizabeth Taylor – $25 million
5. Bob Marley – $18 million
6. Marilyn Monroe – $15 million
7. John Lennon – $12 million
8. Albert Einstein – $10 million
8. Bettie Page – $10 million
10. Theodore Geisel – $9 million
10. Steve McQueen – $9 million
12. Bruce Lee – $7 million
12. Jenni Rivera – $7 million
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