The Unfortunate Passing of These Celebs Put Them on the Forbes Highest Earning List of 2019

When our favorite celebrities die, part of our souls goes with them. Whether we love them for their talent, contributions to creating change or their overall personalities, it’s a hard pill to swallow accepting that we will no longer see them in the physical form…even if it’s only through a television screen. Thanks to their catalog of music and film, fans are able to hear their music or watch movies they’ve appeared in for years to come. Luckily, many of our beloved celebrities have estates that are managed by those with a savvy business sense that continue to put forth projects in their likeness long after their passing. Earlier this month, Forbes Magazine released a list of the top-earning celebs who are no longer with us and despite their passing, their estate is racking in major cash. Here are five celebrities who made the list.

Michael Jackson Whitney Houston
Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston | Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Michael Jackson – $60 million

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson | David McGough/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

For the seventh consecutive year, Jackson tops the list at number one. Despite the controversy the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland caused and the lawsuit the estate brought against the participants, his estate earned $60 million. It is said that Jackson’s music sales increased by over 1 billion following the documentary. There is also consistent revenue he’s generating from his long term deal with Sony Music and his Las Vegas show.

Nipsey Hussle – $11 million

Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle performs onstage 2018 | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for BET

The world is still in shock and mourning the tragic loss of Nipsey Hussle. Thanks to his smart and forward-thinking business moves, Hussle’s estate earned $11 million since his March 2019 slaying. His estate will receive all sales from his music as he owned 100% of the rights due to owning his masters. Hussle had 1.85 billion streams since his death thus far, which is the third-highest on the list, and surpasses other artists who are still living. There are several projects in his likeness, many of which were in motion prior to his death. A partnership with Puma was released over the summer and Hussle had many real-estate ventures he was developing. His Marathon Clothing Company continues to earn income, putting him at number 10 on the list.

Whitney Houston – $9.5 million

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston | David Corio/Redferns)

Though she passed in 2012 and her estate has released several projects since, this is Houston’s first time making the list since her death. It could be attributed to issues with her estate that arose in the aftermath of her passing. After multiple issues related to the estate being accused of not paying upkeep fees, it was reported that half of her estate sold for $7 million this year. In May, The New York Times revealed that the estate signed a deal with Primary Wave Music Publishing, a boutique music and marketing company in New York. The purpose of the deal was set forth by the executor of her estate, Houston’s sister-in-law Pat Houston, to rebuild Whitney Houston’s business. Part of the deal grants Primary Wave will acquire 50 percent of the estate’s assets. Despite any past financial issues, Houston came in at number 12 on the list. Forbes attributes her revenue to the estate sale and Kygo’s remix of Houston’s “Higher Love,” which already earned her 175 million spins on Spotify. With the confirmation of a European hologram tour, her documentary film that was released last summer and talks of a Broadway musical and a new album, there is more money to be made. Houston’s estate brought in $9.5 million.

Prince – $12 million

Prince 1985 | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Coming in at number nine on the list with $12 million made is Prince. Unlike many on the list, he sold 320,000 physical copies of his album, which is uncommon in today’s digital world. Prince also had 500 million on-demand streams, which is consistent with what he achieved last year. According to Forbes, his digital downloads have seen a 12% increase year to year. 

Elvis Presley – $39 million

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley 1957 | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Thanks to Graceland attracting over 500,000 visitors over the past year due to the addition of a new exhibit, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, the Rock-N-Roll King’s estate made a whopping $39 million. A biopic starring Tom Hanks that’s currently in the works will be sure to add to the revenue. Decades after his passing, Presley continues to be a top-selling artist.