By Lacey Rose & Dorothy Pomerantz, Forbes.com
The late King of Pop made more money over the past year than any other musician or actor, dead or alive.
Michael Jackson never graced Forbes' annual Celebrity 100 list
while he was alive. In death, the King of Pop earned more in the past year than any star on that list, apart from Oprah Winfrey.
It was enough to secure Jackson the No.1 spot on our 10th annual Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list. With gross earnings of $275 million, he earned more than the other 12 deceased stars on the list combined. Still more impressive: His estate's 12-month haul was greater than the pooled earnings of this year's two biggest living acts, U2 and AC/DC. Jackson's posthumous earnings come from his stake in the lucrative Sony/ATV catalog, the hit Sony film This Is It
and renewed fan interest in music, videos and all things Michael Jackson.
"The death of Michael Jackson really put a focus on -- crassly, quite frankly -- what someone's worth when they're deceased," says David Reeder, vice president of Corbis' GreenLight, which manages the personality rights for Albert Einstein and Steve McQueen, among other dead celebrities. "In a more positive way, it exposed consumers to this idea that there actually is a market for, and an enduring legacy for, these people."
To place on this year's list, a deceased celebrity needed to earn at least $5 million between Oct. 1, 2009, and Oct 1, 2010, usually through things like music royalties (John Lennon), book sales (Dr. Seuss) or the licensing of one's image and likeness (McQueen). To compile the list, we spoke to agents, lawyers and other sources to estimate a star's gross earnings (before taxes, management fees and other costs).
Coming in at No. 2 is Elvis Presley. The King of Rock n' Roll's estate pulled down $60 million in the 12-month period, thanks to Graceland admissions and a heavily hyped Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. The estate's portfolio of more than 200 licensing and merchandise deals got a nice boost from the late star's 75th birthday celebration as well.