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Despite Michael Jackson pulling in some major dollars in the past 12 months, he couldn’t top Forbes’ recently released Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. Instead it was his old buddy Elizabeth Taylor who beat him to the top spot, with her estate earning a massive $210 million over the last year.
According to Forbes.com, the estate earned most of the money from the record-breaking Christie’s auctions of her jewelry, costumes and art work, which brought in $184 million. In all, 1,800 lots sold. The most expensive item was an 1889 Van Gogh painting that went for $16 million.
Additionally, her perfume White Diamonds, one of the best-selling, brought in $75 million at retail in 2011; and property sales and residuals from Taylor’s movies.
As mentioned, Michael Jackson landed at #2, earning $145 million. His estate earned money from the sales of his own music, but he also owned a 50% stake in Sony’s ATV catalog, which includes artists like The Beatles, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. His estate also collects money from the successful Cirque Du Soleil show The Immortal Tour.
Jackson earned $90 million more than the third-ranked celebrity on the list, Elvis Presley, who pulled in $55 million in earnings, some coming from Cirque Du Soleil, as well, who launched a whole show around Presley’s music, called “Viva Elvis”, though it was shut down due to ticket sales flagging. Graceland is still a big attraction, making up the bulk of his revenue.
Below is the breakdown (via Forbes.com):
Elizabeth Taylor (actress) – $210 million
Died: March 23, 2011
Cause: Heart failure
Michael Jackson (singer) – $145 million
Died: June 25, 2009
Elvis Presley (singer) – $55 million
Died: August 16, 1977
Cause: Heart attack
Charles Schulz (cartoonist) – $37 million
Died: February 12, 2000
Cause: Colon cancer
Bob Marley (singer) – $17 million
Died: May 11, 1981
John Lennon (singer) – $12 million
Died: December 8, 1980
Marilyn Monroe (actress) – $10 million
Died: August 5, 1962
Albert Einstein (scientist) – $10 million
Died: April 18, 1955
Cause: Natural causes
Theodor Geisel (author) – $9 million
Died: September, 24, 1991
Cause: Natural causes
Steve McQueen (actor) – $8 million
Died: November 30, 1980
Cause: Complication from surgery