Michael Jackson, like Elvis Presley before him, may make more money in death than in life. Sony (SNE) has signed a deal with the departed singer's estate worth as much as $250 million. The Wall Street Journal reports that "With 10 albums over seven years, the deal will involve a mix of previously unreleased songs and new packages of familiar ones."The contract may be the largest record deal in history. The paper reports that 31 million Jackson albums have been sold since his death on June 25. The Journal says, "The advances being paid by Sony are to be offset by sales of albums as well as revenue generated by licensing Mr. Jackson's music for uses like videogames, movies and theatrical performances."
Sony can distribute Jackson's material through 2017, so it's betting on the artist's long-term appeal. The deal is also retroactive to cover the income from Jackson's concert film This Is It, although other parts of the Jackson estate are not included in the agreement. The income from the transaction will be used, at least in part, to pay down tens of millions of dollars in debts that Jackson owed.
The Forbes annual list of dead celebrities, called "Dead Celebs," shows that the bet on Jackson is probably a safe one. He ranks third on the list with $90 million in earnings in 2009. Yves Saint Laurent is first with $350 million followed by Rogers & Hammerstein at $235 million. Elvis is fourth at $55 million.
Jackson has regained his popularity but at an awful cost.
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