WACKO JACKO MIRACLE, DIED BROKE, NOW RICHER
It is one year after Michael Jackson, the King of Pop died from medications-related cardiac arrest. Before he died, Jackson left a huge debt, which would have caused him his estate and maybe heart attack.
He died with debts of half a billion dollars. From prevailing realities, the king of pop might never have cleared his debt all his life. But in death nearly half of it has gone in just one year.
When Michael Jackson died he owed AT&T, the telephone company about $1,300.—- But the money earned by his estate from mobile phone ringtones in the 12 months since his passing will top $5m. Both these sums are piddling, in the wider schemes, but also telling.
Hence the plan at the time to play 50 'This is It' concerts in London last summer. What is remarkable today, however, is that far from dimming in the shadow of singer's death, Planet Jackson is spinning faster and brighter than ever.
That $5m from ringtones is a tiny fraction of the money now being raked in by his estate, which is managed by the the late performer's trusted lawyer, John Branca, and a friend and music industry fixture, John McClain.
Just how much cash is flowing is hard to measure. In its analysis of the multiply deals negotiated over recent weeks and months, the Wall Street Journal reports that $200m has been generated, which has allowed the estate to settle all the debts including that AT&T bill, leaving only one cloud: a $300m loan that comes due at the end of this year.
This is good news for the late singer's three young children and his mother, who is responsible for them. Most importantly, the foreclosure proceedings on the gated mansion house they call home in Encino, California, which were pending at the time of his death, have been averted. Other creditors, not least the lawyer who defended Jackson at his 2005 child molestation trial, have also been paid off in full.
Billboard Magazine thinks the posthumous gusher is even stronger, suggesting that earnings since his death have topped $1b.
The New York Daily News puts the amount at $783m. Whatever the sum, it is clear that Jackson Inc is in far better financial shape now than when the singer was alive. When Forbes magazine releases it's next annual list of the world's 'Top Earning Dead Celebrities' this October, it seems certain that Jackson will take the top spot, knocking Elvis Presley and Yves Saint-Laurent among others down a notch.
The cash is coming from serial sources. Sony, his record label, reportedly did a deal back in March worth $250m to the estate under which it will in future release dozens of previously unheard Jackson songs. A first album is due out before Christmas. Sony also has the rights to develop a Jackson themed stage production as well as video games.
Meanwhile, there was the windfall generated by the film of Jackson's final rehearsals before the London concert series that never happened. Sony pictures paid the estate $60m for the rights to the documentary also called 'This is It'. The film took $72m in the US and $188m overseas, of which $56m was earned in Japan alone, making the most successful film of all time. And we haven't even mentioned the surge in album sales after his death. Sony has sold 31.5 million Jackson albums worldwide.
Also helping refloat the bank account is the estate's 50 percent ownership of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a bulging catalogue which controls the rights to 251 Beatles songs as well as music by Taylor Swift. The estate should shortly be collecting a tidy $11m in dividends from that holding.
However, there is still one large outstanding loan. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sony helped set the loan up with Barclays four years ago. It was guaranteed by Jackson's 50 per cent ownership of the Beatles catalogue. If the estate fails to find a way to refinance or settle the loan before it comes due, Sony has the right to buy that half-share from the estate for a fire-sale price.
It is a big hurdle the estate must navigate. But just one year after the singer's death, the chaos of his finances seems largely to have been resolved and the wilder elements of his image have begun to fade into the background leaving an earning power that is greater than anyone could have expected.