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Michael Jackson tops list of highest-earning dead celebrities

Music superstar is No.1 for fifth year with Elvis Presley placing a distant second.

Though he died nine years ago, Michael Jackson

Though he died nine years ago, Michael Jackson still earned nearly $400 million over the past 12 months. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Vince Bucci

As he has for nearly a decade, singer Michael Jackson again heads Forbes magazine's annual list of the highest-earning deceased celebrities.

The estimated $400 million pulled in by the King of Pop for the 12 months ending Oct. 1 comes largely due to Sony's $287 million purchase of his estate's stake in EMI Music Publishing. It’s up from his $75 million for 2017, but less than the $825 million of 2016, when the estate sold off its share of the music catalog that includes the Beatles’ songs. Recent projects include the TV special "Michael Jackson's Halloween," which has run annually for two years now.

Singer Elvis Presley, with $40 million, moved up two spots to No. 2, mostly from his Tennessee entertainment complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, and from tours of his Graceland home in that city.

Golf legend Arnold Palmer drops down a slot to No. 3 with $35 million, which might be boosted in the coming year thanks to the introduction of Arnold Palmer Spiked Half & Half, an alcoholic version of AriZona Beverages' line of his namesake tea and lemonade drink. "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles Schulz, with $34 million, drops a spot to No. 4.

Rounding out the top five is reggae icon Bob Marley ($23 million), whose products include headphones and, even more closely associated with his brand, Marley Natural cannabis and smoking accessories.

The rest of the 13-person list, with 1950s pinup queen Bettie Page repeating as the final entry, with $7 million, includes three newcomers: Playboy Enterprises founder Hugh Hefner (No. 7, $15 million), who died in September 2017 at age 91; rapper XXXTENTACION, ne Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy (No. 11, $11 million), who died June 18 at age 20; and former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali (No. 12, $8 million), who died in 2016 at age 74 and made the list thanks to a tribute watch released by Tag Heuer and a settlement with Fox Broadcasting over unauthorized use of his image in a Super Bowl ad.

Leaving the list were singer-actor David Bowie, scientist Albert Einstein and actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Forbes derives its estimates from Nielsen SoundScan, NPD BookScan and interviews with celebrity-estate experts. The pretax figures are before disbursement to agents, managers and lawyers.

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