Forbes made a list of the 13 richest dead celebrities and not all the entrants are who you would think. Some might even shock you. It’s certainly a more interesting list than Forbes’ Highest Paid NBA Players.
Just to get this out of the way: the way Forbes’ has ranked these is from data concerning the pretax earnings from sales, streams, licensing deals, and other sources between October 30, 2020 and October 30, 2021. Estate acquisitions are included too.
So, let’s start from the bottom.
13. John Lennon - $12 million
Died December 8, 1980, aged 40 (Homicide)
It’s fairly obvious why John Lennon is on this list. He has a large share of Beatles songs under his belt, which is the world’s most valuable catalogue so that’s still paying dividends. Also “Imagine” is celebrating its 50th anniversary so that’s bumping up the numbers too.
12. Juice WRLD - $15 million
Died December 8, 2019, aged 21 (Overdose)
Juice WRLD (Jarad Higgins) is easily the most streamed artist on this list with 5.6 billion U.S. streams alone. These made up the bulk of his revenue. His team have announced an anniversary edition of his second album coming out and a documentary about his life coming out this year.
11. Bob Marley - $16 million
Died May 11, 1981, aged 36 (Cancer)
Marley’s brand lives on creating products like speakers, turntables, headphones, clothing and lighters. Recently the Marley brand has expanded to include psychedelics with a mushroom product line called Marley One. His songs also continue to be streamed 1 billion times a year in the U.S.
10. Luther Vandross
Died July 1, 2005, aged 54 (Stroke)
Now this isn’t an entry that you might have expected. Vandross is on this list because his estate just made $20 million deal with Primary Wave for a stake of his publishing and master recording income streams. Not to say that his music isn’t being streamed outside of this, but his streams aren’t in the billions, you know?
9. Gerry Goffin - $23 million
Died June 19, 2014, aged 75 (Natural Causes)
Gerry Goffin wrote over 50 top 40 hits over his career including the song that made Whitney Houston famous, “Savin’ All My Love for You.” Primary Wave also purchased a $20 million stake in his catalogue.
8. Arnold Palmer - $27 million
Died September 25, 2016, aged 87 (Heart Disease)
Arnold Palmer has made this list due to his drinking Arnie’s Army. It was the result of a deal Palmer had signed with Arizona Beverages for his namesake lemonade-iced tea beverage. This deal brings in millions for the Palmer estate.
7. Elvis Presley - $30 million
Died August 16, 1977, aged 42 (Heart Attack)
Finally, another entry on the list that you would expect. Graceland is a popular tourist destination and that is now recovering post-pandemic so that’s bringing in good cash. In addition, new partnerships have been made with the likes of Cinedigm to create the Elvis Presley Channel. There is also an animated Netflix show coming out that see Elvis exploring alternative history where he faked his death to fight crime with a secret government spy program.
6. Bing Crosby - $33 million
Died October 14, 1977, aged 75 (Cancer)
Bing Crosby makes the list for the first time because his estate sold a stake in his master recordings royalties. The stake includes over 1600 songs, his name, and likeness all worth around $30 million. “White Christmas” gets flogged every year so that’s not hurting the estates income at all.
5. Dr. Seuss - $35 million
Died September 24, 1991, aged 87 (Cancer)
This one is simple. His estate sold 7 million books last year in the U.S. alone. Not to mention the countless partnerships with Hollywood and a new big budget animated series on Netflix.
4. Charles Schulz - $40 million
Died February 12, 2000, aged 77 (Cancer)
The man is responsible for Snoopy and The Peanuts. At the very least “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” plays every year on Halloween! But that’s not the only reason Schulz has made it onto the list. The Peanuts brought in $157 million in 2021 alone and part of that is thanks to a deal with Apple TV+.
3. Michael Jackson - $75 million
Died June 25, 2009, aged 50 (Overdose/homicide)
Jackson’s music catalogue with Mijac Music includes music from Ray Charles, Elvis, and Aretha Franklin which gave the estate a $30 million boost. Michael Jackson’s own discography is also pulling in the numbers with over 1.3 billion streams.
2. Prince - $120 million
Died April 21, 2016, aged 57 (Overdose)
Three of Prince’s heirs cashed in their stakes for an estimated combined total of $108 million. Not to mention Prince’s discography would also be doing some numbers.
1. Roald Dahl - $513 million
Died November 23, 1990, aged 74 (Cancer)
Dahl’s heirs sold their share of the Roald Dahl Company to Netflix in September 2021. According to Bloomberg the deal with Netflix cost anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion, making it the biggest deal ever for kids and family programming.