Michael Jackson's Billion-Dollar Comeback

The King of Pop's estate has had a very good year

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At the time of Michael Jackson's death, he was more than $400 million in debt. It was the kind of looming financial obligation that led him to sign on for a grueling 50-date tour. But, as the one-year anniversary of his death passes, the value of Jackson's estate has ballooned. The estate managers have pulled off one of the most astonishing financial turnarounds to date. Here's what entertainment reporters are discussing:

  • The Estate Is Thriving, writes Ben Sisario at The New York Times: "Over the last year, the Jackson brand has generated hundreds of millions of dollars, and experts in the management of celebrity estates say that in the long term it might very well equal or eclipse the value of what until now has been the ultimate entertainment estate: that of Elvis Presley, which earned $55 million last year, according to an estimate by Forbes magazine."
  • Posthumous Music Sales Were Key, writes Gil Kaufman at MTV: "Jackson has sold 9 million albums in the U.S. and 24 million around the globe since his death, along with around 800,000 copies of albums by the Jackson 5 and the Jacksons. Assuming a worldwide retail sales price of $11.62 per unit... the Jackson catalog brought in about $383 million in sales. Add in 12.9 million track downloads in the U.S. over the past year, along with 26.5 million in international downloads, and you have another $34 million."
  • Everyone's Trying to Cash in on Michael's Wealth, says Howard Weitzman, lawyer for his estate: "There are consistent claims by people claiming to be Michael's wife or child. One lady from the Netherlands kept insisting that she was his daughter. You have to take them seriously when they file claims. There was one woman who claimed $5 million because she wanted to mentor his kids. She insisted she be given a house. She even filed a petition to adopt the children!"
  • This Is a Mammoth Turnaround, says Karen Grigsby Bates at NPR: "It's a comeback that has restored Jackson to the powerful peak he enjoyed in the '80s, when albums like Off The Wall and Thriller revived the flagging music industry — and made consumers far less resistant to making the transition to the compact disc. Jackson's death means there will be a finite number of offerings... but last year has shown it won't stop sales."
  • Jackson Estate Holding on to Rights to 250+ Beatles Songs, writes Katie Nelson at the New York Daily News: "The tunes are the estate's most valuable asset, so the estate executors considered selling to Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC to pay off $500 million in debt. But they would prefer not to sell off the Beatles catalogue because of its long-term value and the consistent cash it generates... Instead, it's likely the estate will refinance a $300 million loan that's due later this year."
  • The Estate's Hauled $756 Million Since His Death, estimates the New York Daily News. The newspaper calculate this "are-you-sitting-down" figure by adding up:
-CD sales
-The movie "This Is It"
-The subsequent appearance of "This Is It" on DVD and Blue-ray
-A new Sony deal that funnels money to the estate for years' worth of future releases and projects
-Key parts of his publishing
  • Think Again, the Estate Hauled $1 Billion, estimates Billboard magazine: "Through interviews with industry experts and our own number-crunching, Billboard examines the various music-based revenue streams that have flowed into the Jackson estate in the past 12 months." They break down the earnings into five sections:
-Music Sales: $429 million
-Film/TV: $392 million
-Music Publishing: $130 million
-Licensing/Touring: $35 million
-Recording Contract: $31 million
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.