Profiting in the Afterlife? Some Celebrities Worth More in Death than in Life

Global Business

Michael Jackson’s posthumous film “This is It” , is the highest-selling concert film and documentary ever — earning over $250 million worldwide to date.

The U.S. government and IRS and Jackson’s lawyers continue a bitter legal battle over the value of Jackson’s estate and one of its most valuable assets: his image.  Is it worth thousands or hundreds of millions?  The answer could cost the estate millions in taxes. But it begs the question – are iconic celebrities like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe or even Bob Marley worth more in death than in life?

Profiting in the Afterlife? Some Celebrities Worth More in Death than in Life

Profiting in the Afterlife? Some Celebrities Worth More in Death than in Life

Michael Jackson's posthumous film "This is It" is the highest-selling concert film and documentary ever -- earning over $250 million worldwide to date.


It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery and in the case of Michael Jackson. Imitation – on film on stage – and on wax has catapulted him to the highest earners of all celebrities – both dead and alive.

Experts say the Jackson estate has earned over $1 billion since his 2009 death — mainly from music and memorabilia sales publishing deals. His Sony records music catalog produced two hit Cirque Du Soleil shows. So it’s easy to see how Jackson became the highest earning celebrity last year -the 3rd time in 5 years that the top earning celebrity came from the grave.

But when there’s a lot money to be made says USC Law Professor Ed McCaffery there’s also a lot of money to be paid.

Experts say if it is determined that Jackson’s image is in excess of half a billion dollars – Jackson’s flourishing estate could have a U-S tax bill in the neighborhood of two to three hundred million dollars.

  • fjj

    2 major inaccuracies in this story: Michael passed in 2009. There is only one Cirque show in Vegas (ONE). The other Cirque show is a traveling show (Immortal).