Budgets from the other world: how stars earn millions of dollars even after death

Elvis Presley is only fourth on this list.  Photo: Courtesy of FilmStills.net

Elvis Presley is only fourth on this list. Photo: Courtesy of FilmStills.net

They usually make money from royalties – collecting revenue from movies, songs, names, houses, museums and video games.

Such is the cruel world of capitalism, where even moving to the other world is no cause for relaxation at all. Forbes analysts confirm this: last year, celebrities from the cemetery earned a record 1.6 billion dollars (97.7 billion rubles). Which of the dead stars is the highest grosser?

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

500 million dollars

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.  Photo: PA Images via Getty images

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Photo: PA Images via Getty images

(1892 – 1973)

The first on the list is the famous British writer who created the world-famous cycle of books about hobbits and elves. The former Oxford lecturer died of pneumonia in 1973, but that didn’t stop him from earning $500 million (30 billion rubles) from comics, TV series and video games based on his works. Alas, posthumously. This happened after Middle-Earth Enterprises, which owned part of the rights to the writer’s legacy, was sold to the Swedish gaming corporation Embracer. The Swedes – the biggest players in the computer game market – decided to buy part of the rights to Tolkien’s works and can now produce any products based on their plots. The remaining rights are distributed among other media giants: HarperCollins, Amazon, Warner Brothers and the Tolkien Estate – the company is managed by the writer’s descendants (son Christopher, daughter-in-law Bailey and grandson Michael George).

Kobe Bryant

400 million dollars

(1978 – 2020)

The brilliant basketball player, who was called second only to the great Michael Jordan, crashed with his daughter in his own helicopter on January 26, 2020. But his work lives on!

Even before his death, the Los Angeles Lakers legend bought a 7% stake in the energy drink company BodyArmor, thanks to which he entered the company’s board of directors.

And at the end of last year, Coca-Cola bought 70% of BodyArmor for 5.6 billion dollars (342 billion rubles).

Thus, Bryant’s relatives, who own the rights to his property, received $400 million (24.3 billion rubles) from this deal.

David Bowie

250 million dollars

David Bowie.  Photo: apd/enaila-erutcip

David Bowie. Photo: apd/enaila-erutcip

(1947 – 2016)

In England, an army of extraordinary musicians have earned millions after death, from Freddie Mercury to Amy Wichnaus. But Bowie, who died of cancer in 2016, did it more successfully than any of his peers. Not only has he been recognized as the most influential British artist of the past 50 years, but his ‘new’ album Toy (actually recorded over 20 years ago but previously unreleased) was released last autumn. Well, this year the sale of the publisher’s catalog and master copies of Bowie’s albums to Warner Music brought the artist’s heirs $250 million. Perhaps the best gift for the singer’s 75th birthday, celebrated on January 8.

Elvis Presley

110 million dollars

Elvis Presley Earned $110 Million Photo: Courtesy of FilmStills.net

Elvis Presley Earned $110 Million Photo: Courtesy of FilmStills.net

(1935 – 1977)

One of the most popular and commercially successful musicians on the planet continues to chop cabbage, although he died in the distant 77th year. Proceeds of the descendants and beneficiaries of the legacy of the king of rock and roll brings Presley’s Graceland estate in the suburbs of Memphis. The home of the king of rock and roll, turned into a museum, receives up to 650 thousand people a year. Forbes analysts have estimated that over the past year the mansion has brought in about $80 million, which people have paid for tours, sales of branded merchandise and tickets to various shows held at Graceland. Coins added to the heirs’ piggy bank and the release of the Elvis biopic this spring. Also, sales of Disney’s Stitch toy (an alien from the cartoon Lilo and Stitch) in an Elvis costume soared. Together, this allowed Elvis to record an additional $110 million in one year.

James Brown

100 million dollars

James Brown.

James Brown.


(1933 – 2006)

The godfather of soul style, the author of the immortal hit I Feel Good (“I’m good”), and he really feels good financially – as they say, and the living will envy. He is well remembered and still loved. Mr. Dynamite, as he correctly called himself, earned 100 million dollars (6 billion rubles) during the reporting period. This became possible after New York-based independent music publisher Primary Wave purchased the rights to the musician’s music, real estate, name and image. James’ heirs have been told that a portion of the proceeds from the deal will go toward academic scholarships for underprivileged children.

Outside the TOP 5

Outside the TOP 5

Photo: Dmitry Polukhin


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