According to Forbes.com, Michael has been the highest earning musician in the world since his death in 2009, with his Estate amassing over four hundred million dollars.
According to court documents filed earlier this year, Michael’s estate took in three hundred and ten million dollars, from July 2009 through to December 2010. Forbes estimates that another ninety million dollars has been earned since then, from worldwide sales of the posthumous album ‘MICHAEL,’ DVD sales of the film ‘This Is It,’ other licensing deals and robust publishing revenues.
John Branca is certain that this worldwide interest in all things ‘Michael,’ proves his status as the greatest entertainer of all time, adding that the estate has generated over one BILLION dollars in retail sales over the past two years.
In fact, his most valuable asset is comprised of other artists’ work. Michael paid forty-seven and a half million dollars in 1985, to buy a publishing catalogue that included two hundred and fifty Beatles songs. Ten years later, Sony paid him ninety million dollars for half the rights, forming a joint venture called Sony/ATV.
Today, Michael’s estate and Sony share ownership of the catalogue, which now boasts half a million songs including titles by Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Eminem and other artists. Insiders place the catalogue’s value somewhere in the neighbourhood of one and a half billion dollars, based on estimated proceeds of fifty to one hundred million dollars per year; Michael’s estate still takes half the profits. Of the three hundred and ten million dollars earned up to December 2010, one hundred and fifty-nine million has gone toward paying down Michael’s debts, supporting his children and covering funeral and memorial service expenses, according to court documents. Branca and the other co-executors have also renegotiated and restructured existing financing arrangements and sought out new deals to generate more income. There are a number of other substantial deals in the works–including a very lucrative international Cirque de Soleil tour set to launch in the autumn–it’s conceivable that earnings could achieve in the seventy-five to one hundred million dollar range annually.
“The cash flow on an annual basis is tremendous,” explained Donald David, an attorney who handled the post-mortem finances of rapper Tupac Shakur. “Sure, it’s going to decline eventually, but it’s going to be a huge amount in the foreseeable future. Michael’s kids are going to have grandkids before that money’s gone.”