Madonna was the top earner on Forbes’ recent Celebrity 100 list, raking in $125 million between June 2012 and June 2013. Not bad for a living person. Her late buddy Michael Jackson easily topped her though, earning $160 million over the past year by our estimate. It’s the third time in the past five years that the top-earning celebrity in the world has come from the graveyard. Much of Jackson’s money comes from two Cirque du Soleil shows. Immortal, a touring show, has grossed over $300 million since opening last year. One, which opened at the Mandalay Bay in May, is routinely sold out. Both shows feature the usual Cirque du Soleil acrobatics but One comes with a bonus: a hologram-like illusion of Jackson performs “Man in the Mirror” at the end of the show. The King of Pop also still earns from his music and his half of the Sony /ATV catalog, which includes hits by The Beatles, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift among others.
Jackson reclaims the No. 1 spot on the list from his friend Elizabeth Taylor. The movie star, who passed away in 2011, earned an estimated $210 million in the 12 months to October 2012 thanks to a series of lucrative auctions at Christie’s of Taylor’s art, jewels and clothes. This year her earnings dropped to an estimated $25 million, landing her in fourth place. Over the past 12 months, the star’s estate earned big bucks from her White Diamonds perfume, which in 2012 brought in $53 million in retail in the U.S. alone, according to Euromonitor International, her rights in old movies and her smart stock and real estate investments.
Ranking second on the list is Elvis Presley with an estimated $55 million in posthumous earnings. The King of Rock n’ Roll may have taken a back seat to the King of Pop, but his estate is still earning steadily thanks to his eternally popular image and his famous home, Graceland.
Peanuts creator Charles Schulz ranks third for the second year in a row with $37 million. The Peanuts are still big but Iconix, which now runs the Peanuts license, thinks they could be even bigger. A new movie, starring the whole gang, is in the works at Fox.
Rounding out our top five is Bob Marley with $18 million. There are Bob Marley speakers and messenger bags as well as a line of Bob Marley drinks that come in “mellow mood” and “one drop” (A.K.A. coffee).
New to Forbes’ list this year is Jenni Rivera. The Mexican-American singer perished in a plane crash last December; since then, she has sold over 880,000 records, nearly as many she did in her life.