The King of Pop, who died two years ago at the age of 50, brought in $170 million for his estate over the past 12 months, enough to place him ahead of every other pop music act of the past year — both living and dead — except for Irish rock band U2.
Elvis came in second place, earning $55 million, thanks to his songbook and a hit Las Vegas stage production featuring his tunes mounted by Cirque de Soleil.
In third place was movie siren Marilyn Monroe, who had $27 million in earnings over the past year.
“Peanuts” cartoon creator Charles Schulz was fourth while John Lennon tied for fifth place with screen goddess Elizabeth Taylor, both earning $12 million.
While much of Lennon’s revenues came as payment from other musicians performing his music, Taylor’s largely came from her perfume White Diamonds.
The fragrance had gross sales of $54 million in the United States in 2010, according to industry experts cited by Forbes.
Taylor’s estate also appears likely to net handsomely from a December sale later this year by the Christie’s auction house featuring the late actress’s jewels, art work and gowns. Experts said it could fetch $30 million.
Forbes, which compiled its list by consulting agents, lawyers and other experts, said the year’s 15 deceased top earners were:
1. Michael Jackson
2. Elvis Presley
3. Marilyn Monroe
4. “Peanuts” cartoon creator Charles Schulz
5. John Lennon, tied with Elizabeth Taylor
7. Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein
8. Children’s author Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel
9. Jimi Hendrix; Stieg Larsson; Steve McQueen; Richard Rodgers
13. George Harrison; Bettie Page; Andy Warhol