Highest-Earning Dead Celebrity of 2016 Isn’t Who You Think


Michael Jackson is still the king. The late icon, who passed away in 2009, was named the highest-earning dead celebrity of 2016 by Forbes on Wednesday, October 12.

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According to the publication, Jackson earned an impressive $825 million in 2016.

Jackson’s estate benefits primarily from his investment in the Sony/ATV music-publishing catalog, which is known for its Beatles songs.

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“The March sale of Michael Jackson’s half of the Sony/ATV music-publishing catalog, famous for its library of Beatles tunes, for $750 million puts him at the top of our annual ranking of the top-earning dead celebrities, an ironic finish given that many critics and even advisers once derided the catalog as a badly overpriced investment,” Forbes explains of the "Beat It" singer's financial success after his death. “Jackson’s total pretax payday of $825 million ranks as the biggest annual haul by any celeb, dead or alive.”

According to the publication, Jackson originally paid $47.5 million in 1985 to buy the catalog. Sony then paid him $115 million for a joint venture, then purchased the remaining half Jackson owned this past March. The music legend’s estate, managed by lawyer John Branca and music exec John McClain, earned a 30 percent annualized return on the investment, Forbes reports.

Prince and David Bowie, who both passed away this year, are also included on the list, but come in behind the runner-up, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz.

The cartoonist died of colon cancer back in 2000, but earned $48 million in 2016 through licensing from the recently released 3-D Peanuts movie.

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See the complete list below:

1. Michael Jackson (d. 2009) — $825 million

2. Charles Schulz (d. 2000) — $48 million

3. Arnold Palmer (d. 2016) — $40 million

4. Elvis Presley (d. 1977) — $27 million

5. Prince (d. 2016) — $25 million

6. Bob Marley (d. 1981) — $21 million

7. Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel (d. 1991) — $20 million

8. John Lennon (d. 1980) — $12 million

9. Albert Einstein (d. 1955) — $11.5 million

10. Bettie Page (d. 2008) — $11 million

11. David Bowie (d. 2016) — $10.5 million

12. Steve McQueen (d. 1980) — $9 million

13. Elizabeth Taylor (d. 2011) — $8 million

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