Like Elvis, Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur, in death, [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist]'s popularity has only grown stronger. The singer, who died at age 50 on June 25, 2009, while gearing up for a 50-concert comeback attempt, has generated nearly $1 billion in revenue for his cash-strapped estate since his death. And with a number of projects in the works, it's likely that cash registers will keep ringing for years to come.
Part of the reason the managers of Jackson's estate moved so quickly to cut a number of lucrative deals in the months after the singer's death is because of a $500 million mountain of debt they were facing. According to CNBC, they chipped away at that by launching a four-pronged plan that included generating cash to pay bills, developing long-term projects for regular cash flow, restructuring Jackson's massive debt, and then working to restore the pop star's image, complicated and tarnished by decades of bizarre behavior and two allegations of improper sexual contact with children. A spokesperson for the estate could not be reached for comment at press time to confirm future plans.
One of the biggest deals was a $250 million pact with Sony Music Entertainment to release 10 new products encompassing CDs, DVDs and video games through 2017. The first of those albums, a still-untitled collection of unreleased songs, is due out at the end of this year. A repackaging of the singer's 1979 solo debut, Off the Wall — which was reissued with bonus tracks in 2001 — is expected in 2011 with more outtakes and remixes.
Jackson had been working for years on a follow-up to the poorly received 2001 album Invincible, recording tracks with Lenny Kravitz, Akon and Will.I.Am, among others, some of which have leaked in unfinished demo form. But it's unknown if those songs will be packaged as the album Jackson was working on at the time of his death or if they will be sprinkled in among the future releases. His former label boss, Tommy Mottola, said soon after Jackson's death that there were "dozens" of unreleased tracks that could see the light of day at some point. Reports surfaced this week that a collector discovered more than 200 unreleased Jackson 5 tracks in a warehouse.
The "This Is It" documentary of rehearsals for the 50-date London comeback shows has already generated $300 million at the global box office and millions more on DVD. But concert promoter AEG Live said at the time of Jackson's death, it had shot more than 100 hours of high-definition footage, meaning further repackaging of that material could be coming in the future.
A video game from Ubisoft that will allow fans to re-create Jackson's signature dance moves is due by the end of the year, and two new Cirque du Soleil shows employing Jackson's music are slated to launch by 2012. The first show will be one of the Canadian troupe's traditional traveling extravaganzas hitting the road in 2011, while the other will be anchored in Las Vegas and is expected to open in 2012.
CNBC said the future of Jackson's onetime adult playland, the 2,600-acre Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, California, is still up in the air. The site is currently owned by Colony Capital, but it could be sold or moved to Las Vegas to create a tourist destination.
Also up in the air is an auction of Jackson's personal effects from Neverland, which he had arranged before his death as a way to raise money to pay off his debts. Plans for the 2009 auction were scrapped at the last minute after the thousands of items had already been put on display by Julien's Auction House in Los Angeles.
MTV will be remembering the life and music of Michael Jackson all weekend. Don't miss the one-hour special "Michael Jackson's Influence on Music," airing tonight at 6:30 p.m. on MTV.