What was Michael Jackson’s Net Worth?
Michael Jackson was an American singer, songwriter, actor, producer and philanthropist. Technically speaking, one could argue that at the time of his death, Michael was in debt to the tune of $500 million thanks to decades of overspending and over-borrowing.
In the decade between 1985-1995, Michael Jackson comfortably earned between $50 and $100 million per year through touring, record sales, endorsements and merchandise. Even after his death, Jackson has remained one of the most popular and profitable celebrities in the world. To date he has sold over 750 million albums, including 35 million that were sold in the year following his death.
Michael Jackson Net Worth at Death
Technically, it was negative $500 million.
Michael’s most valuable asset was his music catalogue. While the copyright value of his own songs was estimated to be worth $100 million, the crown jewel of his net worth was his portfolio of other artist’s songs, especially those from The Beatles. Michael’s first foray into owning music rights began when he purchased the catalogues of Sly and the Family Stone in the early 1980s. He then bought a series of classic singles like “Great Balls of Fire”, “Shake Rattle and Roll”, “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “Runaround Sue” to name a few. But the biggest win came in November 1984 when Michael purchased The Beatles catalogue ATV music for $47.5 million. The Beatles catalogue was eventually merged with Sony to create a 50/50 joint venture called Sony/ATV which today is estimated to be worth $2 billion.
During his lifetime Jackson made about $500 million from his own music, concerts, videos and endorsements but at the time of his death in 2009 he was essentially $500 million in debt. Jackson was left penniless after he spent all of his money on an elaborately complicated and luxurious lifestyle. He spent between $30 and $50 million per year on his lifestyle alone and racked up massive unpaid bills with his lawyers, agents and publicists. A few highlights:
$ 17 million to purchase the Neverland Ranch plus $5 million in annual maintenance costs
$ 20 million to settle a child molestation lawsuit.
$ 65 million on a variety of video projects, including the 35-minute film “Ghosts” that he co-wrote with Stephen King
$ 12 million divorce settlement with girlfriend Debbie Rowe.
$ 5 million in annual interest payments on his debts.
Tens of millions spent on Bentleys, antiques, art, clothes, chimpanzees, diamond-encrusted gloves and other trinkets.
In order to fund his ongoing lavish lifestyle, Jackson took out a $380 million loan against the value of his music catalogue. The pop star was notoriously naïve when it came to his finances and he had an over inflated sense of his new worth. Towards the end of his life, he entered a tailspin of financial transactions with banks, hedge funds and other shady characters in an attempt to maintain his lifestyle while staging a professional and financial comeback. Before his death, Michael had spent through the entire $380 million loan and had little hope of making the interest payments, let alone paying back the principal. This debt is the main reason Michael was forced to stage the comeback tour “This Is It” which arguably was the cause of his death.
In the years after his death, Michael Jackson’s executors have staged an aggressive financial come back. One of their primary goals was to return the estate to solvency so they did not have to sell his prized music portfolio. Michael’s will expressly left 40% of his assets to his three children, to be split evenly. Another 20% was left to various children’s charities and the final 40% was left to support his mother Katherine. Upon Katherine’s death, that 40% balance goes to Michael’s kids.
Beginning almost right after Michael’s death, his executors moved to shore up the pop star’s finances. They immediately sold Michael’s future music rights to Sony for $250 million, which is technically the largest record deal in history. His lawyers also combed through thousands of hours of personal home video from the last year of his life to produce a movie called “This Is It” which was released in theaters around the world. To date, the film has made over $500 million. After the success of the movie and the record contract, many other endorsers came calling. Pepsi struck a deal to licenses Michael’s image. Cirque du Solei has produced two Las Vegas shows around his music and image. Jackson’s estate is 50/50 partners with the Cirque du Solei on both shows. Furthermore, Michael Jackson left tens of thousands of personal items and memorabilia which are being stored in three giant warehouses in Southern California. The items are to be stored until all three of his children reach 18, at which time they can decide what they wish to keep and what can be auctioned off. This will occur in the year 2020.
Jackson Estate Net Worth Post Death
Since Michael Jackson died in 2009, his estate has brought in over $700 million. More than any other living artist in that time. His executors have easily paid back his loan from Sony and have secured the future of his billion-dollar music catalogue. Earnings milestones:
2018: $400 million
2017: $75 million
2016: $825 million
2015: $115 million