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Michael Jackson Money Machine Tops $250 Million on Anniversary

Michael Jackson
Performer Michael Jackson. Jackson died one year ago today. Photographer: Chris Rank/ Bloomberg

The wall-to-wall TV coverage today will show candlelight vigils and weeping admirers. Meanwhile, off stage, some really happy folks are counting the winnings.

The King of Pop, we’ve just learned, is worth more dead than alive, with his estate earning more than $250 million over the year. Billboard totes up $1 billion in revenue.

While the theme is Michael Jackson’s prodigious posthumous earning power, on the anniversary of his death everyone wants to know: Who gets the money? The kids? The creditors? Bubbles?

Jackson’s children -- Prince, Paris and the unfortunately nicknamed Blanket -- live with their grandmother Katherine Jackson at the family’s residence in California. She has described the trio as “normal -- or as normal as can be under pretty extraordinary circumstances.”

The creditors are sitting prettier. Just about a year ago Jackson was set to embark on concerts to stave them off.

Now the income may clear some debts and sort out the Byzantine imbroglio over Jackson’s former home Neverland. Some may shudder at the thought of the 2,600-acre Santa Barbara ranch becoming a creepy theme park with kiddie rides or a Graceland-style memorial. Elvis Presley fans may be aghast at the prospect of the true monarch being mentioned in the same sentence as Jackson.

In the Forbes October 2009 list of Dead Celebrities, designer Yves Saint Laurent was top with $350 million, followed by composers Rodgers & Hammerstein ($235 million), Jackson ($90 million) and Presley on $55 million. Elvis has been boosted by the Elvis 75 events, though Jackson looks set to be catapulted up to his saddest No. 1 record.

Chimp Reunion

As for Michael’s pet, Bubbles, he’s in a Florida sanctuary. He recently was visited by Michael’s sister La Toya for what was billed as “an emotional reunion after 20 years.” A smiling La Toya said the chimp looked much the same, though with a few gray hairs. Bubbles showed no sign of emotion as he stared into the TV camera like a pro.

The machine continues to whir. So far, we have had a concert film, “This Is It,” and we can expect everything Jackson has done to be reissued in deluxe editions. There are hundreds of unreleased tracks in the Sony Corp. vaults.

Those wanting to discover the real Jackson should play “Thriller.” For those with more money than sense, look for tacky souvenirs such as gold-plated Jacko shades. For those seeking 15 minutes of fame or wanting to pay their last respects, the place to go is Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. Be advised that you can leave flowers though you won’t be allowed too close to Jackson’s tomb and must behave respectfully. It’s as if he’s still alive, really.

Murder Claim

No, I’m not going down the road of blogger speculation, crazy Twitters and conspiracy theories. If you believe them, he’s living in Dubai, Dundee or Delhi. Right on cue, La Toya, in an interview with GMTV, claimed that her brother Michael was murdered because he was “worth so much more dead than alive.”

In the wacko world without Jacko, it seems we can believe anything about him as long as it’s incredible.

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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