While living, celebrities can be temperamental and demanding. In death, they simply become brands to be managed. Their images can be attached to everything from T-shirts and posters to fragrances and lingerie, and they can even return from the dead in the form of eerily life-like holograms. Here’s featuring a few of these men and women who have proven the point that there is (financial) life after death…
- Michael Jackson
The King of Pop tops the list with $140 million in earnings. In 2014, he had his second posthumous album release with Xscape, which debuted at No. 2 on the charts. He also appeared (in hologram form) on stage at the Billboard Music Awards. Expect to see more of the same from other dead celebrities, as the technology advances to the point where we won’t be able to tell the difference.
- Elvis Presley
Ranking second behind Jackson is Elvis Presley with an estimated $55 million in earnings over the 12-month period in 2014. Authentic Brands Group (ABG) bought the rights to Presley in 2013 for a reported $125 million. Presley’s estate still rakes in millions thanks to the throngs of tourists who visit Graceland each year and Presley’s extensive music library. But ABG plans to boost earnings with (you guessed it) a hologram Presley.
- Charles Schulz
Cartoonist Charles Schulz ranks third with $40 million. Schulz’s Peanuts characters have never really gone away thanks to online versions of the comic strip and successful merchandising. But now the Peanuts are being introduced to a whole new generation with an upcoming 3D movie from Fox Studios. The movie is slated to be in theatres in November 2015.
- Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor ranks fourth with $25 million in earnings. Thanks to her best-selling perfume and her old movies, Taylor still rakes it in. But as the last embodiment of old Hollywood glamour, everyone believes there’s a lot more that can be done with her brand. Expect more Elizabeth Taylor merchandise to roll out in the coming years.
- Bob Marley
The reggae legend’s postmortem earnings are up $2 million in 2014 thanks to a diversified range of ventures: Marley Beverage Company (including Marley Coffee and a ‘relaxation drink’ known as Marley’s Mellow Mood) and House of Marley (producer of eco-friendly audio and lifestyle products). Marley’s estate this year also launched Marley Apparel, a lifestyle clothing line designed by Marley’s eldest daughter, Cedella Marley. His earnings in 2014 totalled $20 million.
- Marilyn Monroe
Authentic Brand Group, which bought the rights to Monroe in 2011, has been working to strengthen her brand. There is now a line of Monroe lingerie to go with her successful clothing line at Macy’s. Her earnings totalled
$17 million in 2014.
- John Lennon
More than 33 years after the songwriter and crooner was killed in New York City, his estate continues to earn through iTunes sales, a Beatles Cirque du Soleil show and from licensing deals with the likes of Cisco and Mont Blanc. Though the band’s records have yet to be made available on streaming service Spotify, Lennon’s eight-album solo discography was added in October last year. His killer was recently denied parole for the eighth time. His earnings in 2014 totalled $12 million.
- Albert Einstein
Einsetin continues to corner the market on ‘smart’. In addition to things like posters and T-shirts, the scientist now has his own line of tablets. Specially designed for student scientists, they come with built-in sensors to measure things like heart rate, humidity and temperature. His earnings reached $11 million in 2014.
- Theodor Geisel
With classic books like The Cat In The Hat and The Lorax, Dr Seuss is still a best-selling author bringing in millions for his estate every year. His earnings totalled $9 million in 2014.
- Bruce Lee
Fans of the martial arts expert can now pretend to be Lee in EA Sports’ newest version of its UFC game. Lee also appeared in an ad for Mazda last year. Lee’s earnings equalled Geisel’s earnings of $9 million in 2014.