Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'This Is It': Michael Jackson's Earnings Boom

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'This Is It': Michael Jackson's Earnings Boom

Article excerpt

Michael Jackson made more money than Elvis Presley this year - $90 million versus $55 million, according to a Forbes report, boosted by a deal to use his name and likeness in his concert film "This Is It," which took in $2.2 million on its opening night Tuesday.

But will Mr. Jackson top the ranks of highest-earning celebrity estates ever, and will his untimely death make a difference? Outlook: cloudy, say the folks who have their finger on the money that trails the famous long after their passing.

Take for example the pop star's iconic sparkly white glove. It sold for nearly $70,000 in October. But, says Joe Maddalena, president of Profiles in History, the Hollywood memorabilia auction house that handled the sale, the man who owned the glove phoned him just prior to the performer's unexpected death in June to inquire about the glove's value.

"It was the same," Mr. Maddalena says, adding that it's far too early to calculate whether the singer will vault over legends such as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, or Elvis Presley in long-term value.

Part of that uncertainty comes from the fact that the Jackson estate is reportedly mired in some $435 million in debt. It does have some powerful assets, however. Sales of Jackson's records have soared since his June 25 passing - 16 million albums and songs versus 300,000 in the first six months of the year. And lawyers and accountants say the biggest asset is Jackson's co-ownership of a catalogue that includes 250 Beatles' songs.

Jackson acquired ATV, including the Northern Songs catalog of 250 Beatles compositions, in 1985 for $47.5 million, merging it with Sony Music Publishing in 1995. Under the deal, Sony gave him a 50 percent stake in the merged company, which at the time was valued at about $500 million. Sources estimate that Sony/ATV is now valued at about $1.7 billion.

Moreover, says Darrell Miller, an entertainment attorney and partner in Fox Rothschild LLP, the artist's death has meant an end to what many observers called an out-of-control spending habit. …

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