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Top 11 Dead Celebrity Money Earners in 2009


Every year Forbes magazine releases a list depicting the top earning dead
celebrities.  The eleven deceased individuals on this year’s list grossed
approximately $872 million dollars from October 2008 to October 2009.
Dead celebrities can earn millions of dollars each year from merchandising
and licensing deals, along with sales of music, books, and film.  Falling off of
this year's list are several celebrity mainstays, including Marilyn Monroe,
James Dean, and Steve McQueen.  In addition to name recognition and
broad appeal, deceased celebrities offer the marketing community
something living entertainers do not, which is peace of mind.  They can’t
cause a public stir damaging the product.

11. Jimi Hendrix


$8 Million


Jimi Hendrix was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter.  He is often
considered to be the greatest electric guitarist in the history of rock music.
Hendrix is one of the most important and influential musicians of his era.
After initial success in Europe, he achieved fame in the United States
following his 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival.  Early on
September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix died in London under circumstances
which have never been fully explained.  His official cause of death was a
Barbiturate overdose.

Jimi Hendrix returned to the list of the top-earning celebrities this year, thanks
to solid annual record sales and a new publishing deal with Universal after
years with Sony.  A new catalog licensing deal was also reached with Sony.
In February of 2009, the Hendrix estate was awarded $3.2 million in a
trademark infringement case after Seattle businessman Craig Diffenback
and Hendrix's brother Leon created a product called Hendrix Electric Vodka
without permission of Jimi’s estate, which is controlled by his sister Janie.       

10. Michael Crichton


$9 Million


Michael Crichton was an American author, producer, director, screenwriter,
and medical school graduate.  He is best known for his work in science
fiction, medical fiction, and the thriller genres.  Crichton’s books have sold
over 150 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted into films.
In 1994, Crichton became the only creative artist to have works
simultaneously charting at #1 in television, film, and book sales, with ER,
Jurassic Park, and Disclosure, respectively.  Some of his notable novels
include Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Sphere, Rising Sun,
Disclosure, Timeline, Prey, and State of Fear.

Michael Crichton was a private man and his battle with throat cancer was not
made public until his death in late 2008. According to Crichton's brother
Douglas, Michael was diagnosed with lymphoma in early 2008.  He was
undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the time of his death.  Crichton's
physicians and family members had been expecting him to make a recovery,
but he unexpectedly died of the disease on November 4, 2008.

Similar to many writers, Michael Crichton continues to publish books after his
death.  His latest novel, Pirate Latitudes, was discovered by Crichton's
assistant and published at the end of 2009.  Steven Spielberg has already
acquired the rights to turn the book into a movie.  Pirate Latitudes is an
adventure story concerning piracy in Jamaica during the 17th century.
Crichton had one more unfinished novel on his hard drive at the time of his
death, which is slated to be published next fall.  Michael Crichton will
continue to make millions of dollars annually from book, movie, and
television sales.

9. Albert Einstein


$10 Million


Albert Einstein was a German-born Swiss-American theoretical physicist,
philosopher and author who is widely regarded as one of the most influential
and best known scientists and intellectuals of all time.  Einstein published
more than 300 scientific and over 150 non-scientific works.  On April 17,
1955, Albert Einstein experienced internal bleeding caused by the rupture of
an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which had previously been reinforced
surgically by Dr. Rudolph Nissen in 1948.  Einstein refused another surgery,
saying "I want to go when I want.  It is tasteless to prolong life artificially.
I have done my share, it is time to go.  I will do it elegantly."  He died in
Princeton Hospital at the age of 76, having continued to work until near the

Albert Einstein routinely appears in marketing and merchandising
campaigns.  In 2009, Einstein lent his image to McDonalds and a small
bobble-head toy of Einstein appeared in happy meals.  It was part of the
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian film promotion.  Einstein's
name continues to be used to promote Baby Einstein products, a majority
Disney-owned venture designed to make infants smarter.  Albert Einstein
has numerous International licensing deals, including ties with Nestlé and the
Toyota Prius in Japan.  There is a mall in Germany named Das Einstein.
Towards the end of 2009 and in 2010 the scientist's estate has expanded
into the videogame and digital arena with a slate of upcoming brain games.

8. Dr. Seuss


$15 Million


Theodor Geisel was an American writer and cartoonist most widely known
for his children's books written under the pen name Dr. Seuss.  He published
over 60 children's books, which were often characterized by imaginative
characters, rhyme, and frequent use of trisyllabic meter.  His most
celebrated books include the bestselling Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in
the Hat, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.  There have been
numerous adaptations of his work, including eleven television specials, three
feature films, and a Broadway musical.  During World War II, Dr. Seuss
worked in an animation department of the U.S Army and created war

He wrote Design for Death, a film that won the 1947 Academy Award for
Documentary Feature.  Dr. Seuss died of natural causes in 1991.  He was
Dr. Seuss is the bestselling children’s author in history.  He
makes an appearance on the list of the highest grossing dead celebrities
annually.  In 2009, Seuss sold around 5 million books worldwide.  The next
Dr. Seuss film adaptation is a 3-D animated version of The Lorax.  The film
is scheduled to hit theaters in 2012.  Next fall, PBS will debut a science
learning series geared toward children, titled The Cat in the Hat Knows
About That.

7. John Lennon


$15 Million


John Lennon was an English rock musician, singer-songwriter, author, and
peace activist who gained worldwide fame as one of the founding members
of The Beatles.  Lennon is the second most successful songwriter in
Billboard singles chart history after Paul McCartney.  He was responsible for
27 number one singles on the U.S. Hot 100 chart as a performer or
songwriter.  John Lennon took a break from music in 1975, but reemerged in
1980 with a comeback album, Double Fantasy.  He was murdered less than
one month after its release.  He was shot to death by Mark David Chapman
at the entrance of The Dakota in New York City.

It was a big marketing year for The Beatles.  In September of 2009,
Electronic Arts and MTV Games released The Beatles: Rock Band, allowing
fans to jam along with a virtual version of the band and download additional
albums for $17.  The Fab Four's music was also repackaged and
remastered in a 16-disc box set that went on sale in September.  LOVE, the
Cirque du Soleil show featuring the group's music, still brings thousands of
fans into The Mirage of Las Vegas.  John Lennon and Paul McCartney
receive a large percentage of these profits, as they were The Beatles main
song writers.  John Lennon will continue to make millions of dollars annually.

6. Charles Schulz


$35 Million


Charles Schulz was an American cartoonist, whose comic strip Peanuts is
considered to be one of the most popular and influential in the history of the
medium.  In 1943, Charles Schulz was drafted into the United States Army
and served in World War II.  He invented Peanuts in 1950 and the comic
strip was first published on October 2.  Charlie Brown, the principal character
of Peanuts, was named after one of Schulz co-workers at the Art Instruction
School.  Schulz drew inspiration from his own life while developing the
comic strip and its main characters, including Snoopy.

Peanuts ran for nearly 50 years, almost without interruption.  During the life
of the strip, Schulz took only one vacation, a five-week break in late 1997.
At its peak, Peanuts appeared in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75
countries.  In November of 1999 Schulz suffered a stroke, and later it was
discovered that he had colon cancer that had metastasized.  Charles Schulz
died on February 2, 2000.

Peanuts and its title characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy have always
made a lot of money in advertising, merchandising, television specials, and
DVD releases.  In 2009, the cartoon was revisited in a line of New Balance
sneakers for kids.  However, the majority of Schulz 2009 income was raised
when The Peanuts catalog was purchased by Warner Brothers after years
with Paramount Pictures.  Warner Brothers released many new Charlie
Brown shows, including all six of the Peanuts television specials on a single
DVD for the first time.

5. J.R.R. Tolkien


$50 Million


J.R.R. Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university
professor.  He is best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works
The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.  Tolkien has been
identified as the father of modern fantasy literature and his writings have
inspired many other works of fantasy.  He was appointed a Commander of
the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on March 28, 1972.  In
1973, he died of a bleeding ulcer at the age of 81.

J.R.R. Tolkien is the creator of hobbits and all Middle Earth languages.  This
has left a lasting impression on The Lord of the Rings franchise.  In 2009,
the Tolkien estate and publisher HarperCollins reached a settlement with
New Line Cinema over alleged unpaid royalties from the Lord of the Rings
movies.  The agreement was reported to be over $100 million, giving J.R.R.
Tolkien a sizable income in 2009.  Tolkien also gained book royalties from
his vast collection of novels.  J.R.R. Tolkien’s posthumous earning will
continue to grow with the release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit in 2011.

4. Elvis Presley


$55 Million


Elvis Presley was an American musician and actor.  During the 1950s and
60s Elvis became a cultural icon.  He is one of the originators of rockabilly,
an up-tempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country and rhythm and blues.  In
1973, Presley staged the first concert that was broadcast globally via
satellite.  It was titled Aloha from Hawaii, and was seen by approximately 1.5
billion viewers.  Elvis Presley is regarded as one of the most important
figures of 20th-century popular culture.  During the 1970s, prescription drug
abuse severely compromised Elvis health, and he died suddenly in 1977 at
the age of 42.  The official cause of death was a sudden heart attack.

Elvis Presley has a marketing team that helps run his estate and he is
routinely included on the list of the highest earning dead celebrities.  In 2009,
Elvis Presley earned $55 million dollars.  Elvis earns more than some of the
biggest living concert acts, during the same 12 month span, Britney Spears
grossed $35 million and Bon Jovi made $50 million.  However, unlike
Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley doesn’t count music royalties towards his
revenue stream.  His manager sold the rights to all of the King’s pre-1973
recordings to RCA (Sony) for only $5 million.

Elvis makes the majority of his posthumous money from merchandising and
admissions to Graceland.  He returned to the Mattel lineup this year with a
collectors' edition Jailhouse Rock-themed Barbie doll.  Presley is expected
to make even more money in 2010 with Graceland’s celebration of 75-years
of Elvis.  A Las Vegas based Cirque du Soleil Elvis spectacular is also in the
final stages of preparation. 

3. Michael Jackson


$90 Million


Michael Jackson was one of the most successful and influential music artists
of all time.  He died on June 25, 2009 from a drug overdose.  He was only
50-years-old.  The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled his death a homicide.
Before his death, Jackson had reportedly been administered drugs such as
propofol and lorazepam.  Prosecutors formally charged his personal
physician with involuntary manslaughter.

It was estimated that as many as a billion people around the world watched
his public memorial service on live broadcast television.  In 2009, Jackson's
posthumous earnings were bolstered by a merchandising deal and the rights
to use his name and likeness in the Sony film This Is It.  In the six months
after his death, Michael Jackson sold an estimated 9 million albums
worldwide, plus more than 5.5 million digital downloads.  Sony shelled out
$60 million for the rights to produce This is It, the highly anticipated movie
featuring rehearsal footage of what was to be a 50-date concert
engagement at London's O2 arena.

The $60 million advance was split between Jackson's estate and concert
promoter AEG.  Jackson's estate also sold some of Michael’s future
earnings potential, due to his valuable stake in the Sony/ATV catalog, as
well as the publishing rights to his own catalog of music.  This brought a
large and quick payday for living beneficiaries.  Michael Jackson’s estate will
continue to make millions of dollars for years to come.

2. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein

Musical composer (Rodgers)

Playwright/songwriter/producer (Hammerstein)

Combined: $235 Million


Rodgers and Hammerstein were a well-known American songwriting duo.
They created a string of popular Broadway musicals in the 1940s and
1950s, during a time considered the golden age of the medium.  With
Rodgers composing the music and Hammerstein adding the lyrics, five of
their shows, Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The
Sound of Music, were outstanding successes.  In all, they garnered thirty-
four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, and two
Grammys.  Richard Rodgers died in 1972 of chronic illness.  He was 77-

Oscar Hammerstein II died in 1960 at the age of 65 of stomach cancer.  The
pair’s regular catalog licensing fees got a large boost in 2009 from the
reported $200 million acquisition by Imagem Music Group of The Rodgers
and Hammerstein Organization and the rights to the pair's creations.  That
sale gives Imagem, which is owned by a Dutch pension fund, ownership of
musicals like Oklahoma, The King and I, and South Pacific.  The ownership
of the couple’s individual works were not sold.

1. Yves Saint Laurent

Fashion Designer

$350 Million


Yves Saint Laurent was an Algerian-born French fashion designer who was
one of the greatest figures in French fashion during the 20th century.  He is
one of the most consistently celebrated and influential designers of the past
fifty years.  Saint Laurent’s career began in the 1950s when he signed a
design contract with Christian Dior.  During the 1960s and 1970s Saint
Laurent was considered one of Paris's "jet set.”  He was often seen at clubs
in France and New York, such as Regine's and Studio 54.

In 1983, Saint Laurent became the first living fashion designer to be honored
by the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a solo exhibition.  In 2001, he was
awarded the rank of Commander of the Légion d'Honneur by French
president Jacques Chirac.  He retired in 2002 and became increasingly
reclusive, living at his homes in Normandy and Morocco with his pet French
Bulldog Moujik.  Saint Laurent died on June 1, 2008 of brain cancer at his
residence in Paris.  According to The New York Times, a few days before
he died, Saint Laurent was joined in a same-sex civil union known as a "civil
pact of solidarity" with a lifelong friend.

How did Yves Saint Laurent manage to make over $350 million dollars
posthumously in 2009?  It stemmed from the sale of his art collection, which
occurred in February of 2009.  In the auction, 733 of Saint Laurent’s
collectables were sold, including items ranging from paintings by Picasso to
ancient Egyptian sculptures.  Saint Laurent’s partner Bergé commented that
the decision to sell the collection was made because without Saint Laurent
"it has lost the greater part of its significance.”


After commissions, the profits of the sale were split between the Pierre
Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation and a soon-to-be-created
philanthropic group aimed at scientific research and the fight against AIDS.
Before the sale commenced, the Chinese government tried to stop the sale
of two 18th Century bronze Chinese zodiac sculptures, which were stolen
from the Old Summer Palace by the French and British Forces during
invasion of China in 1860.

A French judge dismissed the claim.  The sculptures - a rabbit's head and a
rat's head - both sold for €15,745,000 ($20,117,073).  It was later reported
that the bid had been placed by Cai Mingchao, a representative of China's
National Treasures Fund who was seeking to repatriate the items back to
China.  Henri Matisse's work Cuckoos on a blue and pink carpet broke the
previous world record set in 2007 for a Matisse work, selling for 32m Euros.

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Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted March 26, 2010