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Kobe Bryant joins Michael Jackson in Forbes’ highest-earning dead celebrities list

Michael Jackson has once again topped the Forbes’ list of highest earning dead celebrities for the eighth year in a row, raking in $48million, despite the damning documentary Leaving Neverland that was released last year.  

The annual list published Friday revealed the King of Pop’s Mijac Music catalog, which includes music by Elvis and Aretha Franklin, accounts for more than 70% of his earnings.

Jackson – who died aged 50 in 2009 from a reported overdose – made $60million last year, after his music streams increased to 2.1 billion in the US, compared to 1.8 billion the year before. 

The estimation of pre-tax income – not deducting fees for agents, managers and lawyers – takes into account figures from Nielsen Music, IMDBPro and interviews with industry insiders. 

Too soon: The late Kobe Bryant has joined the annual list with $20M after his tragic helicopter crash this year

Gone but not forgotten: Michael Jackson tops Forbes’ highest-earning dead celebrities list once again, raking in $48M… as the late Kobe Bryant joins too soon with $20M after tragic helicopter crash

Joining the list too soon was the late Kobe Bryant at number six, making $20million since the tragic helicopter crash on January 26 this year that took the Lakers legend’s life, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant.

Forbes’ highest-paid dead celebrities of 2020

Michael Jackson – Musician (overdose/homicide): $48 million 

Dr. Seuss / Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel – American author (cancer): $33 million 

Charles Schulz – American cartoonist (cancer): $32.5 million 

Arnold Palmer – American professional golfer (heart disease) $25million 

Elvis Presley – Entertainer (heart attack) $23million 

Kobe Bryant – American basketball player (helicopter crash) $20million 

Juice WRLD – Rapper (overdose) $15million 

Bob Marley – Musician (cancer) $14million 

John Lennon – Musician (homicide) $13million 

Prince – Musician (overdose) $10million 

Freddie Mercury – Musician (AIDS-related illness) $9million 

George Harrison – Musician (cancer) $8.5million 

Marilyn Monroe – Film star (overdose) $8million 

Per the report, sports brand Nike sold out its like of Bryant merchandise this year, while fans rushed to buy copies of his autobiography, which sold an extra 300,000 copies. 

Another new star was rapper Juice WRLD – real name Jarad Higgins – who died in December last year from overdose aged 21. Higgins has made a reported $15million since his death, after his music streams saw a significant spike. 

His third album Legends Never Die was released posthumously in July this year and topped the Billboard charts, 497,000 album-equivalent units in its first week. 

Elswhere in the list, it was revealed that he estate of Theodor Seuss Geisel – a.k.a. Dr. Seuss – almost doubled its income this year, earning an estimated $33 million.

The boom in earnings is said to be down to Dr. Seuss Enterprises turning the character into a multimedia universe, similar to how film studios like Marvel and DC build endlessly lucrative spinoffs. 

Most notably, the character got the Netflix treatment in 2020 with Green Eggs and Ham – which reportedly cost $65million – and was voiced by A-List stars like Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton.

Other iconic stars featured in the list include Marilyn Monroe, whose image and name is said to be licensed by almost 100 different brands, bringing in an $8million haul.  

Monroe died aged 36 on August 4, 1962, and has remained one of the most recongisable faces in popular culture, and the ownership of her estate is complex.

The Hollywood star is said to have left a large part of her estate to her acting coach, Lee Strasberg. He and his wife, Paula, also one of her acting coaches, were like surrogate parents to the actress. 

Following Strasberg’s death in 1982, his second wife Anna inherited the Monroe estate and hired CMG Worldwide to handle it.

Tragic: Juice WRLD - real name Jarad Higgins - died in December last year from overdose aged 21. Higgins has made a reported $15million since his death, after his music streams saw a significant spike

Tragic: Juice WRLD – real name Jarad Higgins – died in December last year from overdose aged 21. Higgins has made a reported $15million since his death, after his music streams saw a significant spike

Musicians George Harrison of The Beatles made $8.5million, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury earned $9million, and John Lennon brought in $13million. 

It was revealed this week that Lennon’s reclusive widow Yoko Ono has handed over her business interests in The Beatles and Lennon to their son Sean. 

Ono, 87, has been managing John’s $800million fortune since his death in 1980. 

Icons: Both Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley have repeatedly made the Forbes list each year

Legend: Elvis made $23million this year alone

Icons: Both Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley have repeatedly made the Forbes list each year

Meanwhile, Prince – who died aged 57 on April 21, 2016, after an overdose, made $10million, after selling almost 700,000 albums in the US in 2020. 

Bob Marley – who died from cancer aged 36 in 1981 – pulled in an impressive $14million, after his music achieved over a billion streams globally, according to the report. 

The reggae legend’s House of Marley features a long list of merchandise including sneakers, turntables, T-shirts and other items, said to rake in around $3million. 

Legend: Bob Marley - who died from cancer aged 36 in 1981 - pulled in an impressive $14million, after his music achieved over a billion streams globally, according to the report

Legend: Bob Marley – who died from cancer aged 36 in 1981 – pulled in an impressive $14million, after his music achieved over a billion streams globally, according to the report


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