At the time of his death last June, Michael Jackson was reportedly deeply in debt and had agreed to sign on for an unprecedented 50-date run at the O2 arena in London, as a means of turning his financial fortunes around.
But thanks to a flurry of merchandising deals and a flood of nostalgia-fueled music sales, his estate has generated nearly $1 billion in the past year,Billboard reports via Reuters.
Billboard broke down the source of that windfall, determining that nearly half of it came from the robust music sales following the singer's shock death on June 25, 2009. 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 magazine estimated that 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. Then there's about 1.5 million in ringtone sales in America, another 3 million globally for another $5 million, as well as $2 million from digital performance royalties from music subscription services and $4.5 million from global digital performances for a music total of $429 million.
The second biggest source of revenue was TV and movie projects, led by the "Michael Jackson: This Is It" documentary about the singer's final rehearsals for his planned London shows. Sony Pictures paid $60 million for the rights to the film, which earned $72 million at the box office to become the highest-grossing concert film ever. It earned an additional $188 million overseas, while the DVD of the film raked in $43 million in the U.S., as well as $24 million in rental income. It earned $18 million just in Japan on the first day of release and another $7 million in Blu-Ray sales.
Billboard also speculated that the sales of the TV rights to "This Is It" to Viacom (the parent company of MTV) may have generated an additional $15 million, and licensing fees for nontheatrical performances (airplanes, cruise ships, hotels) could bring in around $24 million.
One of Jackson's traditional cash cows, his music publishing rights, was another lucrative source of income, taking in nearly $130 million. The singer's Mijac publishing company — with an estimated value of $75 million in 2005 — has a current value of around $150 million, generating around $25 million a year in revenue, with that number possibly doubling to $50 million in the past year. Jackson's half ownership of the lucrative Sony/ATV catalog could be worth as much as an additional $80 million a year.
The executors of Jackson's estate have cut a series of deals over the past year, resulting in around $35 million in additional revenue. Because many fans declined to return their tickets to the London This Is It shows, preferring to retain them as keepsakes, those tickets were worth $6.5 million, along with around $5 million in concert merchandise sales; a second deal with merchandise maker Bravado cut in August reportedly included a $10 million advance. A Jackson memorabilia exhibit in Japan has earned $3.5 million. And additional licensing royalties and retail sales could have rolled up $10 million or more for the estate.
It is not known how much game-maker Ubisoft paid to license Jackson's image for an upcoming video game or what potential revenues could be from a pair of upcoming Jackson-themed Cirque du Soleil shows.
Finally, even in death Jackson has one of the most lucrative recording contracts around. Sony Music Entertainment cut a deal in March with the estate to release 10 Jackson albums through 2017. From a collection of previously unreleased Jackson songs due in November to reissues of such landmark albums as 1979's solo debut, Off the Wall, the estate is guaranteed between $200 and $250 million for the Sony pact. Though none of the albums have been released yet, if just one of the contract's eight years comes off as planned, it could add $31 million to the estate's coffers.
Celebrate Michael Jackson's legacy all week long as MTV News looks back at his life, his music and the death that shook the world one year ago.