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Michael Jackson’s Net Worth, Music Catalog, Buying the Beatles & More Details!

What was Michael Jackson’s Net Worth?

An American entertainer and producer known for his philanthropy, Michael Jackson had a net worth of less than half a billion dollars when he died in 2009. Michael was technically in debt to the tune of $500 million at the time of his death due to a lifetime of overspending and over-borrowing. His albums have sold more than 750 million copies to date, including 35 million sold in the year following his death.

Michael Jackson made between $50 and $100 million annually between 1985 and 1995 from touring, record sales, endorsements, and merchandise. As a result, Michael was unable to save any money. He had to spend $50 million a year to maintain his extravagant lifestyle. Aside from the tens of millions in legal fees, he paid Debbie Rowe $12 million to be his baby mama and another $20 million to settle a child molestation case. It cost $19.5 million to buy Neverland Ranch and $10 million a year to keep it up and running. To turn the property into an amusement park, he spent $35 million remodeling it. In addition, there were the Bentleys, the antiques and the art, the exotic animals, and those famous diamond-encrusted gloves. In addition, he squandered anywhere from $50 million to $100 million on failed film and music projects.

After Jackson’s death, he has continued to be one of the world’s most popular and lucrative celebrities even after his passing.

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Michael Jackson’s Net Worth at Death

Michael Jackson had a net worth of -$500 million at the time of his death. Michael used his 50% stake in Sony/ATV as collateral for a $380 million loan from Bank of America to fund his extravagant lifestyle. That loan’s annual interest costs tens of millions of dollars. He blew through the entire $380 million-plus $120 million in a matter of a few years. Because of this, Michael Jackson was $500 million in debt when he died in 2009.

Music Catalog

As of his death, Michael’s music collection was the most valuable asset in his estate. While his song copyrights were estimated to be worth $100 million, the crown jewel of his net worth was his collection of other artists’ songs, especially those by The Beatles. Sly and the Family Stone’s catalogs were Michael’s first foray into owning music rights in the early 1980s. Once he had acquired these classic singles, he went on to purchase others like “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Shake Rattle Rattle and Roll,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and so on. Michael bought the Beatles’ ATV music catalog for $47.5 million in November 1984. Sony/ATV, a joint venture with a 50/50 stake in the Beatles catalog, was formed after the two companies merged, and its current market value is estimated at $2-4 billion.

Buying the Beatles

As early as 1984, Robert Holmes was the proud owner of The Beatles’ entire song library. In the form of ATV Music Publishing, a company he had formed and which owned the rights to approximately 4,000 songs, the Australian business magnate was offering it for sale. ATV Music Publishing was The Beatles’ music publishing division called Northern Songs. Sadly, when they were just starting in the music business, Paul McCartney and John Lennon signed a terrible contract with Northern Songs that gave them publishing rights to over 250 songs. It was offered to Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono in 1984, but they declined because the price tag of $40 million was prohibitive for them.

Meanwhile, Michael Jackson, then 25, was riding high on the success of Thriller and had been shopping for music publishing rights for two years. Between 1982 and 1984, he spent millions of dollars acquiring publishing rights from artists like Sly and the Family Stone and hits like Great Balls of Fire, When a Man Loves a Woman and Runaround Sue. Branca, Jackson’s longtime attorney, discovered the ATV catalog/The Beatles catalog was for sale and approached Jackson about purchasing it, which he agreed to. Michael told him to go all out, and so Jackson and Branca offered $47.5 million ($115 million in today’s dollars) for the rights to the film.

Michael was now free to license any Beatles song, which he did in 1987 when he licensed Revolution to Nike for a cool half-million dollars. Since Jackson still owned songwriter’s royalties, he received $250,000 from the deal, while McCartney and Lennon each received $125,000.

Michael Jackson's Net Worth
Michael Jackson’s Net Worth

Merging With Sony

Sony contacted Michael in 1995 and made him an incredible offer. In exchange for merging ATV’s music catalog with Sony’s, Sony offered him $95 million ($230 million today). That’s okay by me, and I’ve already made back twice my initial investment, plus I’ve gained 50% of an even bigger music publishing company.” In addition, Jackson still owned all of his songs through Mijac Music, a separate company.

The new Sony/Jackson company would be called Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and it would grow to 200,000 songs in the next decade. It was between 2005 and 2013 that Sony/ATV grew to control two million songs, which included the catalogs and music of artists such as Lady Gaga and Bob Dylan. Licensing and royalties brought in $1.25 billion in 2012, and the company made $500 million in profit. The company’s current market value ranges from $2 to $4 billion.

Earnings and Expenses

At the time of Jackson’s death in 2009, he had accumulated a debt of $500 million from his music, concerts, videos, and endorsements. In the end, Jackson was left with nothing after blowing through all of his savings on a lavish and overly complicated way of life. He racked up massive unpaid bills from his lawyers, agents, and publicists after spending $30 to $50 million a year on his lavish lifestyle. Highlights include:

  • $17 million to purchase the Neverland Ranch plus $5 million in annual maintenance costs
  • $20 million to settle a child molestation lawsuit.
  • $65 million on a variety of video projects, including the 35-minute film “Ghosts” that he co-wrote with Stephen King
  • $12 million divorce settlement with girlfriend Debbie Rowe.
  • $5 million in annual interest payments on his debts.
  • Tens of millions were spent on Bentleys, antiques, art, clothes, chimpanzees, diamond-encrusted gloves, and other trinkets.

Jackson took out a $380 million loan against the value of his music catalog to maintain his lavish lifestyle. The singer was well-known for his gullibility when it came to money, and he had an exaggerated view of what he was now worth. Financial transactions with banks and other unscrupulous individuals took over his life at the very end of it to keep up with his lifestyle while also trying to get his career back on track for the future. Michael had already spent the entire $380 million loan before he died, and he had little hope of ever being able to pay back the principal or the interest. Michael was forced to stage his comeback tour “This Is It” because of this debt, which he feared would lead to his death.

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Who Inherited Michael Jackson’s Estate?

Michael Jackson’s executors have staged an aggressive financial comeback in the years since his death. To avoid having to sell his prized music collection, one of their primary objectives was to return the estate to financial viability.

Michael left 40% of his assets to his three children in his will, which they were to divide equally. He also left 20 percent to various children’s charities, with the remaining 40 percent going to his mother’s care. In the event of Katherine’s death, Michael’s children will receive 40% of the estate, resulting in an 80/20 split for the three children.

Jackson Estate Net Worth Post Death

Michael’s death, ironically, was the best thing that ever happened to his financial situation. Since his death on June 25, 2009, he has been the highest-earning deceased celebrity on the planet. After Michael’s death, his executors took immediate action to secure the pop star’s financial future. Michael’s future music rights were immediately sold to Sony for $250 million, which at the time was the largest record deal in history. While his lawyers searched through thousands of hours of personal home video from the year before his death, a film titled “This Is It” was produced and shown in theatres all over the world.

The film has raked in over $500 million worldwide so far. More and more companies started contacting him after his record deal and success in the movie. Pepsi agreed to use Michael’s image in a licensing agreement. Cirque du Solei created two shows based on his music and image for the Las Vegas market. Both shows are co-produced by Jackson’s estate and Cirque du Solei. More than a million items belonging to Michael Jackson have been stored in three massive warehouses in Southern California as a memorial to his life and legacy. It’s up to his three children, now aged 18, to decide which items to keep and which to auction off when they’re old enough to make such a decision.

To this day, his half-share in Sony/music ATV’s catalog is generating eight-figure dividends for his family.

Over $700 million has been collected by Michael Jackson’s estate since his death in 2009. To a greater extent than any other currently active artist at the time. They have paid back Sony’s loan and are confident that his billion-dollar music collection will live on. Milestones in earnings:

  • 2018: $400 million
  • 2017: $75 million
  • 2016: $825 million
  • 2015: $115 million

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