Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Celebs Who Mint Millions From Beyond The Grave

For the third time in five years the world’s highest-earning celebrity isn’t even living. Here are the top moneymakers from beyond the grave

Published: Nov 16, 2013 06:53:04 AM IST
Updated: Nov 13, 2013 04:31:10 PM IST

Celebs Who Mint Millions From Beyond The Grave
Michael Jackson raked in $160 million over the past year, by our estimate. The most successful star who still breathes, Madonna, didn’t come close. She made $125 million, according to our Celebrity 100 list. How did the King of Pop do it? He’s making a mint from two Cirque du Soleil shows: Immortal, which has grossed more than $300 million since opening in 2011, and One, which brings him back from the dead with a hologram-like doppelgänger performing ‘Man in the Mirror’. He also profits from sales of his recordings and from his half of the Sony/ATV music catalogue, which owns the copyright to hits by superstars including the Beatles, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. He reclaims the No. 1 spot from Elizabeth Taylor, who died in 2011. Her earnings plunged from $210 million a year ago, after a series of big auctions, to $25 million this year.

Note:   Earnings from October 2012 to October 2013, except Madonna’s earnings (from June 2012 to June 2013)

1. Michael jackson Musician

$160 million
Died: June 25, 2009 Age: 50
Can make $200,000 from a single Cirque performance.

2. Elvis presley Singer, actor

$55 million
Died: Aug 16, 1977 Age: 42
Graceland gets 600,000 visitors a year.

3. Charles m schulz Cartoonist
$37 million
Died: Feb 12, 2000 Age: 77
There’s still gold in Peanuts.

4. Elizabeth taylor Actress

$25 million
Died: Mar 23, 2011 Age: 79
White Diamonds fragrance earns millions.

5. Bob marley Musician

$18 million
Died: May 11, 1981 Age: 36
More than 75 million albums sold since death.

6. Marilyn monroe Actress
$15 million
Died: Aug 5, 1962 Age: 36
The new face of Chanel No. 5.

7. John lennon Musician
$12 million
Died: Dec 8, 1980 Age: 40
Thriving from both recording and songwriting.

8. Albert einstein Scientist
$10 million
Died: Apr 18, 1955 Age: 76
Montblanc’s Einstein pen sells for $3,000.

8. Bettie page Actress
$10 million
Died: Dec 11, 2008 Age: 85
The pin-up girl has a chain of boutiques.

10. Theodor geisel Author
$9 million
Died: Sept. 24, 1991 Age: 87
Dr Seuss’s 2012 The Lorax grossed $349 million.

10. Steve mcqueen Actor
$9 million
Died: Nov 7, 1980 Age: 50
Deals with Tag Heuer, Persol and Lucky Brand.

12. Bruce lee Martial artist, actor
$7 million
Died: July 20, 1973 Age: 32
A CGI Lee stars in a Johnnie Walker ad.

12. Jenni rivera Singer
$7 million
Died: Dec 9, 2012 Age: 43
She’s sold 880,000 records since her death.

(This story appears in the 29 November, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)