It’s almost impossible to believe that almost four years have passed since Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009. Even to this day his name continues to dominate headlines, one of which is the current court case taking place in Los Angeles where Jackson’s mother is suing for damages over the death of her son from a potent anesthetic.
In a fascinating feature report which aired last night on 60 Minutes, correspondent Lara Logan gets an up close look at how the brand of Michael Jackson has undergone “the most remarkable financial and image resurrection in pop culture history.” Among those interviewed, Logan sits down with John Branca, an executor of Michael Jackson’s estate: “an architect, if you will — of how to make money off his legacy, most of which will eventually be turned over to Jackson’s three children. Branca was Jackson’s lawyer and advisor off and on for over 25 years and negotiated many of the singer’s biggest deals during his lifetime.” When asked about the astonishing ability of Michael Jackson to sell more tickets dead than most artists do alive, John Branca replies: “That is absolutely true. Worldwide box office now is over $300 million. And Michael has almost 60 million Facebook friends. He’s the biggest selling artist on iTunes and he’s sold approximately 50 million albums since he passed away.”
In his will, Michael Jackson made it explicitly clear that 20% of his estate was to be given to charity, 40% to his children, and 40% went to his mother as long as she was alive, and on her death would go to the children. Branca tells 60 Minutes: “The whole objective of Michael’s estate plan is to take care of his mother during her lifetime and to accumulate the principle and assests for the benefit of Michael’s children.”
The will named Branca and John McClain, a longtime friend of Michael Jackson, as co-executors — and Jackson’s crippled image was not the only thing they had to contend with when Jackson died. At first glance, Michael Jackson left more debt than anything. The day he died, Michael Jackson had about $500 million dollars in debt. As you will see in the 60 Minutes story below, not only has that $500 million debt been erased in four years, a whopping $100 million has also been raked in, making Michael Jackson the highest earning musician — dead or alive — in the four years since his death. Adding to this is the fact that Jackson’s crystal clear finances means his estate still owns its 50% stake in a massive music rights package which includes the rights to the Beatles catalogue. Jackson’s ownership alone is estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.