10 highest-earning dead celebrities


For some dearly departed celebrities, death is no obstacle to continuing to get rich. Forbes just released a report on the late stars who are still cashing in hefty paychecks, and topping the list is none other than the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

In fact, Jackson, who passed away in 2009 at age 50, out-earned this year’s highest-paid living celebrity by a big margin. Forbes ranked Madonna as the world’s top earner with a $125 million paycheck from the past year—but Jackson made $160 million.

To create the list, Forbes calculated the earnings of dead stars between October 2012 and October 2013. “We count money coming into the estate and we don’t deduct for how the estate handles it. To come up with our estimates we talk to estate managers, licensors and lawyers involved in the dead celebrity business,” Forbes writes.

The rest of the list included the kinds of stars with famously wealthy estates—like Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, and John Lennon—but also a few surprises, like Albert Einstein and Bob Marley. The top 10 highest-earning deceased celebrities are:

1. Michael Jackson
Four years after his death, Jackson is still cashing in on his own record sales, as well as earnings from his portion of Sony/ATV music sales, which includes copyright to top performers like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Eminem, and the Beatles. Plus, two Cirque du Soleil shows under his name, Immortal and One, continue to add to his coffers.

2. Elvis Presley
Though he died in 1977, the King of Rock ’n' Roll still pulled in $55 million in the last year thanks to earnings from Graceland tours and the purchase of his estate by billionaire Leon Black.

3. Charles Schulz
The creator of Peanuts made $37 million in the last year—the continued success of his iconic comic strip and associated movie deals keep the money rolling in for the cartoonist who passed away in 2000.

4. Elizabeth Taylor
Falling to No. 4 after topping this list last year (thanks to auction sales of her jewelry and art in 2012), Taylor, who died in 2011, still earned an impressive $25 million in the last year from her fragrance, White Diamonds, and investments in stock and real estate.

5. Bob Marley
The musician, who passed away in 1981, doesn’t seem like he’d be part of big-time business. But his drink empire, the Marley Beverage company, and line of environmental lifestyle and audio products, House of Marley, help bolster his still-strong album sales. All told, Forbes estimates that Marley made $18 million in the last year.

6. Marilyn Monroe
She died more than 50 years ago, but the iconic actress is still selling clothes, perfume, and spa treatments. Macy’s offers a line of clothes under her name and Monroe has become the celebrity face of Chanel No. 5. In the last year, she made $15 million.

7. John Lennon
Continued sales of Beatles albums and other musical projects, plus a Beatles-themed Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil show, add up to a $12 million paycheck for Lennon, who was killed in 1980.

8. Albert Einstein
Who knew a scientist would take a place on this list among the world’s top entertainers? Einstein raked in $10 million in the last year from a Montblanc limited-edition pen under his name (it cost $3,000)—and his name will also grace scientific tools, tablet computers, and a line of healthy food.

9. Bettie Page
The pinup, who died in 2008, also made about $10 million thanks to Bettie Page boutiques selling her signature look scattered across the country.

10. Theodor Geisel
Also known as Dr. Seuss, the world-famous author earned $9 million from the film adaptation of The Lorax. And there’s more where that came from—new movie versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat are reportedly in production.