Top Earning Dead Celebrities

1. Elvis Presley

Earnings: $49 million
Occupation: Musician
Died: Aug. 16, 1977
Age: 42
Cause: Heart attack Thirty years after his death, the King once again reigns supreme. Plans to overhaul the once-lethargic estate are paying off big-time for publicly traded CKX Entertainment (nasdaq: CKXE – news – people ), which owns the bulk of the empire. (Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie retains a 15% interest.) Attendance and spending at Graceland are up thanks to a new ad campaign, renovations at the sprawling complex and a new premium VIP tour program. The Presley estate has also inked new licensing deals with Cirque du Soleil, American Greetings and Hershey (nyse: HSY – news – people )’s.

2. John Lennon

Earnings: $44 million
Occupation: Musician
Died: Dec. 8, 1980
Age: 40
Cause: Murder Lennon’s posthumous income was buoyed considerably over the past year thanks to resolutions of long-standing lawsuits. In February, the remaining Beatles and their heirs settled a trademark dispute with Apple Inc. (nasdaq: AAPL – news – people ), reportedly for as much as $100 million. (The Beatles’ commercial interests are overseen by a firm called Apple Corps.) Two months later, the band finally resolved a 30-year battle with record label EMI over alleged unpaid royalties. Both pacts clear the way for the Beatles to begin selling their iconic catalogue of hits online.

3. Charles M. Schulz

Earnings: $35 million
Occupation: Cartoonist
Died: Feb. 12, 2000
Age: 77
Cause: Colon Cancer Peanuts might be the understatement of the century. Snoopy and his posse, featured on some 18,000 cartoon strips during Schulz’s 50-year career, are the lynchpin of a massive merchandising empire that encompasses television and newspaper syndication, as well as hundreds of performances of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown each year. United Media, on behalf of Schulz’s widow, oversees a portfolio of sterling deals, including a 20-year-long campaign with Metlife (Schulz coined the term “security blanket”). One out of every five Hallmark cards sold features a Peanuts character. And in October, Warner Home Video won exclusive rights to distribute Peanuts videos.

4. George Harrison

Earnings: $22 million
Occupation: Musician
Died: Nov. 29, 2001
Age: 58
Cause: Throat Cancer The “Quiet Beatle” enjoyed a substantial bump in his post-mortem income thanks to one-off settlements from Beatles lawsuits with Apple and EMI. Harrison’s estate also gets royalties from the modest sales of his solo work, plus deals like Cirque De Soleil’s Beatles-themed Las Vegas show. Harrison’s heirs can look forward to more consistent and sizable royalties once the iconic Beatles catalog finally hits Apple’s iTunes, likely sometime next year.

5. Albert Einstein

Earnings: $18 million
Occupation: Scientist
Died: April 18, 1955
Age: 76
Cause: Natural Causes The world’s most famous celebrity scholar has become a leading trademark in child education thanks to the Disney-owned Baby Einstein brand of videos and toys. In recent years, the brand has targeted toddlers with the hit animated series Little Einsteins. All royalties from Einstein’s name and image go to Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, which was bequeathed the estate. Word is that Lionsgate is developing a film based on the personal life of the Nobel prize-winning genius.

6. Andy Warhol

Earnings: $15 million
Occupation: Artist
Died: Feb. 22, 1987
Age: 58
Cause: Complications after a gallbladder operation Twenty years after his death, the art world is in the throes of Warhol mania–in May, a 1963 Warhol painting of a car crash collected $71 million at auction, four times the previous record for his work. The estate, guarded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, generates income for artist’s grants by selling Warhol originals and through licensing deals. Warhol iconography peddles, among other things, Seiko watches, Levi’s jeans and Burton snowboards. Warhol was declared “the patron saint of retail” by an executive at Barneys, which last year built its entire holiday shopping campaign around the pop artist.

7. Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)

Earnings: $13 million
Occupation: Author
Died: Sept. 24, 1991
Age: 87
Cause: Natural Causes Some 250 million Seuss books have been sold to date, and in over 20 languages. (Odds are good there’s at least one Seuss tucked away in just about every child’s library.) The Seuss estate is fiercely guarded by Geisel’s widow Audrey. How the Grinch Stole Christmas returns to Broadway in November. And in March, Jim Carrey and Steve Carell will provide voices for an animated big-screen adaptation of Horton Hears a Who!

8. Tupac Shakur

Earnings: $9 million
Occupation: Musician
Died: Sept. 13, 1996
Age: 25
Cause: Drive-by shooting A stake in the West Coast hip-hop kingpin’s gritty catalog was sold in May to EverGreen Copyrights by Shakur’s mother Afeni. Already in development are a Tupac biopic, a Broadway musical and a Tupac-themed videogame. (A pitch for Tupac action figures was roundly rejected.) The bestselling rapper in history–with 75 million albums sold to date–is still profiting from his Makaveli line of sneakers, do-rags and sweatshirts.

9. Marilyn Monroe

Earnings: $7 million
Occupation: Actress
Died: Aug. 5, 1962
Age: 36
Cause: Overdose from sleeping pills The breathy, blonde bombshell is at the center of a legal debate over who retains publicity rights to her celebrity image. In May, a New York judge rejected claims by CMG Worldwide, which oversees the Monroe licenses, that it held exclusive post-mortem publicity rights. (The case was inspired by the family of Monroe photographer Sam Shaw, which allegedly licensed its own Monroe image to Target (nyse: TGT – news – people ).) Now the California legislature is taking up the issue, debating whether to pass a bill that would allow celebrities to secure post-mortem publicity rights even for non-relatives. Meantime, the Shaw case paves the way for rightful owners of Monroe photos to sell them without approval of her heirs.

10. Steve McQueen

Earnings: $6 million
Occupation: Actor
Died: Nov. 30, 1980
Age: 50
Cause: Cancer The “King of Cool” is enjoying renewed popularity 40 years after the release of Bullitt. In the past year, GQ named the low-key tough guy one of the 50 Most Stylish Men; the Motorcycle Industry Association voted him the all-time “top biker;” and an anonymous fan shelled out $2.3 million at auction to ride off in McQueen’s 1963 Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso. McQueen’s image peddles Ford Mustangs (of course) and Tag Heuer watches. Last winter, an auction of McQueen collectibles fetched nearly $3 million, including $70,200 for a pair of Persol sunglasses McQueen is said to have worn in The Thomas Crown Affair. © Krister Flodin for Forbes.com

11. James Brown

Earnings: $5 million
Occupation: Musician
Died: Dec. 25, 2006
Age: 73
Cause: Complications from pneumonia When he died on Christmas Day last year, the “Godfather of Soul” left behind a probate nightmare–an out-of-date will, a recent marriage and a handful of alleged heirs claiming Brown was their proud papa. At stake are royalties from a vast music portfolio that includes iconic singles like “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Please, Please, Please.” Spike Lee has expressed interest in directing a Brown biopic.

12.Bob Marley

Earnings: $4 million
Occupation: Musician
Died: May 11, 1981
Age: 36
Cause: Cancer Fifty-Six Hope Road, which manages the Rastafarian superstar’s music on behalf of the Marley family, enjoys royalties from the Marley catalog, including Legend, the bestselling reggae album in history. The family, which also sells Marley-branded apparel and paraphernalia online, is threatening to sue Universal Music (which owns rights to some of Marley’s biggest hits) and Verizon Wireless (nyse: VZ – news – people ), for allegedly selling Marley ringtones without permission.

13. James Dean

Earnings: $3.5 million
Occupation: Actor
Died: Sep. 30, 1955
Age: 24
Cause: Car Accident The “Rebel Without a Cause” has a different moniker in the licensing business: Old Faithful. The iconic Dean image–squinty eyes, cigarette dangling from his lips–remains a staple of college dorm rooms everywhere. Dean’s image has cropped up in ads for Barneys, Chrysler and Lee Jeans.

Pics by Krister Flodin
Source » FORBES.COM
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