Even before the "This Is It" opening, Michael Jackson had earned $90 million in the past year, with most of it coming since his death five months ago.

That sizable sum put him third on the Forbes list of dead celebrities making the most money.

Jackson earned less than the $350 million that fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent scored in the past year, and the $235 million earned by the songwriting duo Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.

Forbes counted money earned from October 2008-October 2009, even for Jackson, who died June 25. But about $72 million -- or 80% of the $90 million earned in the past 12 months -- came after Jackson's death, said a spokesperson for GreenLight, a consultancy company that represents "delebs," their term for dead celebrities still earning money.

On Wednesday, Jackson -- along with AEG Entertainment and Sony -- began raking in money for next year's list as the concert-rehearsal documentary "This Is It" opened in 3,500 domestic theaters and around the world.

As for the rest of the Forbes list, it's the first time at No. 1 for Saint Laurent, who died in June 2008. And Rodgers and Hammerstein, who died in 1979 and 1960, respectively, are high on the list this time around courtesy of a $200 million acquisition of much of their catalog in April.

Coming in fourth is last year's No. 1, Elvis Presley, with $55 million; "The Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien is fifth with $50 million.

The rest of the Top 13 -- a Forbes deleb tradition -- consists of Charles Schulz, John Lennon, Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), Albert Einstein, Michael Crichton, Jimi Hendrix, Aaron Spelling and Andy Warhol.

Together, the 13 delebs grossed $886 million in the past 12 months, by far the biggest total in the nine years that Forbes has put out its list. Last year, for example, the 13 top earned $194 million; the year before that was $232 million.

Those looking for a piece of two of the delebs on this year's list -- Warhol and Jackson -- can bid on the pop artist's silkscreen portrait of the King of Pop that is expected to fetch as much as $700,000 at an auction next month.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print