Jackson, who died in 2009 of an overdose of the drugs propofol and benzodiazepine, leaves a sprawling musical legacy and, presumably, a vast estate. However, years of rumours and controversy have tarnished not only the star’s legacy but the value of his estate.
Neverland Ranch, where Jackson lived for 15 years, was recently put back on the market for $31 million USD, a nearly 70% discount from its original asking price of $100 million USD in 2015. Jackson paid $17.5 million USD for the property in 1988. The ranch, which has been named Sycamore Valley Ranch, has been remodeled since Jackson’s death and sits on 2,700 acres on the edge of the Los Padres National Forest. It’s difficult to put a number on what the home is actually worth, as it’s a unique property with a troubled history, but according to Zillow, a 10-acre lot nearby in Los Olivos is on the market for $920,000 USD. That would set the cost per acre at a little over $90,000 USD, making Neverland Ranch severely underpriced based on acreage alone.
However, time and scandal have not slowed the massive amount of money that the Jackson estate has made. According to Forbes, the King of Pop has made $2.1 billion USD (adjusted for inflation), since his death.
Adjusted for inflation, the King of Pop has made $2.1 billion USD since his death.
A child star, Jackson first performed and recorded with his brothers in The Jackson 5 for Motown Records. Collectively, the group sold millions of albums over their short run in the ‘70s, with the biggest seller being their first Greatest Hits album, released in 1971.
However, the big money started rolling in when Thriller, his second solo album after leaving Motown, became one of the best-selling albums of all time, with 33 million copies sold (back when people bought albums) in the U.S. Over the course of his career Jackson has sold over a billion albums worldwide, Billboard reports, with Thriller alone accounting for 110 million of those sales.
In 1983, Jackson signed a record-breaking deal with Pepsi with the potential to pay out $5 million USD. The multi-faceted marketing deal, which included ads with a reworked version of the mega-hit “Billie Jean,” tour sponsorship, Jackson logos on the cans, and events with the singer, was first pitched to Coca-Cola, according to Billboard. Coke reportedly passed on the sponsorship, which saw Pepsi sales grow and surpass Coca-Cola, as they saw Jackson as a “more targeted, ethnic campaign.”
At the time, the deal made the Guinness World Records as the most lucrative personal endorsement contract to date, and paved the way for massive paydays for artists such as Beyoncé.
At this point, the singer had established himself as a brand, and shrewd businessman. In 1985, he bought the publishing rights to the Beatles’ early catalog, including many of their greatest hits, for $47.5 million USD. This allowed Jackson to license songs such as “Revolution” to Nike for an ad that ran in 1988 and spurred a lawsuit from the Beatles, who did not want their music used to sell sneakers (it was a very different time). The song licensing reportedly cost Nike $250,000 USD, according to Investopedia. And that was for just one song.
In 1995, Jackson merged the catalog with Sony’s, reportedly netting $115 million USD for giving up half ownership of the catalog. His estate sold the partnership for a whopping $750 million USD in 2016.
His estate, The Michael Jackson Family Trust, was a trust-based estate plan put in place by Jackson before his surprise demise. An attorney for the Jackson family, John Branca, and music executive John McClain are co-trustees of the trust, and work to follow through on Jackson’s wishes. Fifty percent of the trust is dedicated to the care and comfort of his mother Katherine for the duration of her life. The other half is split between Jackson’s children, Prince, Paris, and Blanket, according to finance site The Balance. The children do not have unlimited access to the trust. At age 21, they are given the net income of their part of the trust (that’s basically the interest or any money coming in), and cannot touch the principal until they turn 30, when they receive a third outright. The other two-thirds are awarded at ages 35 and 40.
Even in death, Jackson remains one of the hardest-working celebrities. His estate also created a post-mortem tour in partnership with Cirque du Soleil called Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, that reportedly grossed $360 million USD at its conclusion in 2014. According to Money magazine, in 2016 (partly due to that big catalog sale) the singer’s estate pulled in $825 million USD dollars, and his net worth was estimated to be about $500 million USD in 2017. So, while the deceased King of Pop’s reputation has taken a hit with the new allegations, it appears so far, his family bank account has not.