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Old Oct 29, 2004, 08:16 AM   #1
SF4-EVER
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Default Top-earning dead celebrities of 2004

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Top-earning dead celebrities of 2004

Elvis is still king of the crypt with a cool $40 million, but Charles M. Schulz ain't making Peanuts either. Also in the top 10, a couple of Beatles and the Lord of Rings.

By Forbes.com

NEW YORK - It's not easy to earn $5 million per year when you're dead.

The earning power of most deceased people, even famous ones, slows considerably or stops altogether when they die. But for a select few, the paychecks keep coming, and some draw even bigger paydays than when they were alive.

Welcome to our fourth annual assessment of the Top-Earning Dead Celebrities, where we assess the earning power of deceased musicians, actors, authors, songwriters and composers.

The criteria for making our list are simple. A person's estate must pull down a minimum of $5 million annually. How does a deceased person earn money? For musicians like John Lennon, the bulk of it comes from worldwide publishing royalties. He and Paul McCartney co-wrote most Beatles songs, and they get a cut every time a song is played on the radio stations of Viacom's (VIA.B, news, msgs) Infinity Broadcasting, sold on a CD, used in a film or covered by another artist.

Elvis Presley's estate earns tens of millions of dollars annually, not from music sales -- Elvis' manager famously sold the rights to pre-1973 recordings to RCA (now part of Sony (SNE, news, msgs)) for $5 million -- but from merchandising and admissions to Graceland.

Because actors don't own rights to the films in which they appear, revenue comes almost entirely from licensing and merchandising. The image of Marilyn Monroe, for example, is used to sell literally hundreds of different products worldwide. Likewise, the estate of Charles Schulz has licensed the cartoonist's Snoopy as pitchman for everything from MetLife (MET, news, msgs) insurance to PepsiCo (PEP, news, msgs) sodas.

CMG Worldwide handles business affairs for Monroe's estate, whose beneficiary is Anne Strasberg, widow of famed acting coach Lee Strasberg. CMG, a major rights management firm, represents the estates of hundreds of deceased celebrities, including athletes like Babe Ruth.

It sometimes takes shrewd business acumen to earn millions in death. Presley's estate, whose sole heir is his daughter, Lisa Marie, would not rake in what it does were it not for Elvis Presley Enterprises' aggressive licensing, marketing and use of courts to secure publicity rights.

Here are the 10 top-earning dead celebrities from the full Forbes list.

Top-earning dead celebrities
Rank Name Earnings ($mil)
1 Elvis Presley 40
2 Charles Schulz 35
3 J.R.R. Tolkien 23
4 John Lennon 21
5 Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel 18
6 Marilyn Monroe 8
7 George Harrison 7
8 Irving Berlin 7
9 Bob Marley 7
10 Richard Rodgers 6.5

Elvis Presley. As a rock-and-roll icon, Elvis Presley simply has no peer. Neither does Elvis Presley Enterprises, the for-profit organization that runs business affairs for his estate. EPE says that revenue was flat at $40 million, and claims it is split evenly between admissions to Graceland, licensing, merchandising and entertainment licensing. Elvis' image is used to sell everything from American Greetings cards to Zippo lighters. Next up, a clothing line and Broadway musical based on the King's music.

Charles Schulz. There may not be any new Peanuts cartoons -- those now running in 2,400 newspapers are recycled from the 1970s -- but there's always a new licensing gimmick. This year it's retro fashions, so Peanuts-emblazoned clothing is everywhere from Wal-Mart Stores to H&M. Snoopy and the gang appear on one in five Hallmark cards; the beloved beagle also is a pitchman for MetLife and PepsiCo. The Peanuts empire may be sprawling, but it's still very much a family business. Schulz's survivors get creative approval on every project. Next up is the 40th anniversary of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in 2005.

J.R.R. Tolkien. The battle for Middle Earth came to a close with the last film of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series, "The Return of the King." The Ring may have been destroyed but plenty of wealth was created: New Line Cinema grossed nearly $3 billion on the trilogy. The author's estate gets a slice of that and of home video sales, but merchandising was nary a glint in Gollum's eye when Tolkien's contracts were drawn up. So it's doubtful his heirs will see any of the $700 million that movie tchotchkes have grossed. Book sales peaked in 2002, but they still put $9.5 million in estate coffers this year. A film based on "The Hobbit" may now be in the works.

John Lennon. The Lennon estate will mark the 24th anniversary of his assassination by releasing two new recordings: a remastered edition of the 1975 covers classic "Rock 'N' Roll," and a compilation of acoustic performances aptly titled "Acoustic." But the real money still comes from the Beatles. Last year's "Naked," a stripped-down version of the band's "Let It Be" album, sold nearly 5 million copies worldwide. In November, EMI will release "The Capitol Albums Vol. 1," a box set of the first four Beatles albums. Two theatrical productions will add to the till: "Lennon," a musical, will open next summer; plans are underway for a Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show.

Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel. The past year was a good one for Seuss Enterprises but should have been blockbuster, given the hype surrounding "The Cat in the Hat." Instead, its second feature film was savaged by critics and over-marketed with product tie-ins. It pulled down less than half of the first Seuss feature, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," at the box office. But Geisel's widow, Audrey, is known as a shrewd negotiator, and may have received as much as 5% of the movie's gross. Add in book sales (millions of Seuss titles are sold annually), TV rights, art sales, the Seuss Landing theme park and all the Seuss-themed merchandise, and you have a certified juggernaut.

Marilyn Monroe. More than 42 years after her death, Marilyn Monroe continues to be an iconic standard-setter when it comes to sex and glamour. Some of the major campaigns of the past year include Visa, Aliz International Luggage, HMY Airways, Volkswagen and Physicians Form cosmetics. More than half of the business comes from companies outside the U.S. CMG Worldwide, which manages and represents Monroe's estate, has signed on more than 150 new partners since last year. Marilyn left everything she had to famed acting coach Lee Strasberg, whose wife took control of Marilyn's estate when he died in 1982.

George Harrison. Harrison doesn't get a songwriter credit for the bulk of the Beatles repertoire, but the Fab Four guitarist penned some memorable tunes: "Here Comes the Sun," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Taxman" and "Something." His estate collects a one-quarter share of the royalties paid on every Beatles album sold, which last year approached 9 million units worldwide. It also enjoys the proceeds from Harrison's solo output, which includes songs such as "My Sweet Lord," and "Give Me Love." In February, EMI released "The Dark Horse Years, 1976-1992," a box set sure to find its way into holiday gifts this December.

Irving Berlin. Born Israel Beilin, young Berlin sang for pennies in the streets of New York. Landed his first major hit with "Alexander's Ragtime Band" in 1911. Over the next five decades, Berlin would produce a repertoire that defined American music: musicals (Annie Get Your Gun), jazz standards ("Cheek to Cheek," "Puttin' on the Ritz") and novelty tunes ("White Christmas," "God Bless America"). Along with huge publishing royalties, Berlin's heirs also own half of the historic Music Box theater in New York. Broadway producer Kevin McCollum is currently gearing up a theatrical version of Berlin's 1954 movie classic "White Christmas."

Bob Marley. As the reggae legend achieves sainthood in the music world, his progeny have become shrewd entrepreneurs in Miami. Under the Tuff Gong label, the Marley clan slices and dices and reissues every album in the Marley catalog. But nothing outsells "Legend." Since its release in 1984, the greatest hits compilation has sold more than 20 million copies and remains a staple on the record charts (yes, it too was augmented and re-released in 2002). Vintage Marley, the flagship store operated by son Robby, sells all things Bob, including the Original Rude Bwoy fashion line.

Richard Rodgers. While studying at the Manhattan School of Music (now Juilliard), Rodgers composed short pieces with upper classmate lyricists Oscar Hammerstein II and Lorenz Hart. After school he teamed with Hart, first to write musicals ("A Connecticut Yankee"), then Hollywood scores, a partnership that yielded such standards as "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Bewitched," "My Funny Valentine," and "Isn't It Romantic?" After Hart's death in 1943, Rodgers joined forces with Hammerstein to pen Broadway hits "Oklahoma," "The Sound of Music," "South Pacific," and "The King and I." They were among the first artists to retain ownership of their master recordings.
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Old Oct 29, 2004, 01:50 PM   #2
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Default Re: Top-earning dead celebrities of 2004

Ummmm.... I didn't think that George gets anything from 'My Sweet Lord", didn't he lose that lawsuit? Or am I just really wacky
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Old Oct 29, 2004, 02:24 PM   #3
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Default Re: Top-earning dead celebrities of 2004

[ QUOTE ]
sourmilkpinky Posted:
Ummmm.... I didn't think that George gets anything from 'My Sweet Lord", didn't he lose that lawsuit? Or am I just really wacky

[/ QUOTE ]


From what I understand, the judgment was a one time settlement (unless someone else knows more) Feeís paid out by Harrison, and he retains normal royalties for the song.
Yeah wacky world, but George paid lots of bucks, which is why he agreed with doing the anthology series, ($$$) didnít want to be a part of it but because he needed to be for investments, (business deals that gone sour), and best of all to keep his estate a float.
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Old Oct 29, 2004, 07:21 PM   #4
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Default Re: Top-earning dead celebrities of 2004

okay thanks Whistlerca, I stand corrected.
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Old Oct 29, 2004, 09:35 PM   #5
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Default Re: Top-earning dead celebrities of 2004

[ QUOTE ]
Whistlerca Posted:
[ QUOTE ]
sourmilkpinky Posted:
Ummmm.... I didn't think that George gets anything from 'My Sweet Lord", didn't he lose that lawsuit? Or am I just really wacky

[/ QUOTE ]


From what I understand, the judgment was a one time settlement (unless someone else knows more) Feeís paid out by Harrison, and he retains normal royalties for the song.
Yeah wacky world, but George paid lots of bucks, which is why he agreed with doing the anthology series, ($$$) didnít want to be a part of it but because he needed to be for investments, (business deals that gone sour), and best of all to keep his estate a float.

[/ QUOTE ]

Hi Whistlerca! George had to pay out a fee initially, but the case didn't end there. It dragged on for years eventually making it to the US Supreme Court in the very early 90's I believe.'91 maybe. Because of Allen Klein's unethical involvement in it George was awarded damages and also awarded the rights to My Sweet Lord and He's So Fine. I'm not sure though if he lost the rights to My Sweet Lord after the first judgment.(I think this is all pretty much right. Someone can correct me if not) George mentioned this in an interview with Paul Cashmere I believe. I've forgotten the link.

The legal problems he had just before Anthology was with his businer partner Denis O'Brien in Handmade Films. It was 'said' that was why he agreed to do Anthology but that was never really confirmed, I don't think. It's hearsay. I don't see George doing something just for the money.
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