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Is Death Still a Great Career Move?

Everyone knows that some celebrities are worth more dead than alive. The question is: why?

by
Kathy Shaidle

Bio

February 14, 2014 - 1:30 pm
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One of the lawyers for Michael Jackson’s family should really explain to them the definition of “chutzpah.”

There’s no point asking their accountants, since they’re likely the ones responsible for this:

The IRS has served notice that the estate of Michael Jackson severely understated worth and income and is demanding $700 million in back taxes and penalties.

Documents have been filed with the U.S. Tax Court that alleges that the executor’s for Jackson said his net worth at the time of his death was $7 million while the IRS has assessed the worth at $1.125 billion.  (…)

A good portion of the difference was attributed to the value of Jackson’s likeness which the estate valued at $2,105 and the IRS says was worth $434.264 million. In addition, the estate said that Jackson’s portion of the ownership of both his songs and those of the Beatles was worth nothing.

Yes, you read that right.  They said the Beatles songs (and his) were worth $0.

The IRS said it was more like $469 million.

In a separate, in-depth article examining the Beatles’ fortunes fifty years on, David Fiorenza, a Villanova University economics professor who specializes in art and entertainment, said that the Fab Four’s “financial impact today is bigger than any other artist, living or deceased.”

So those Jackson family shenanigans are funny in a “can’t you believe it?” way, but the fact is, celebrity estates are serious business.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
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The deceased Mr. Jackson owns the song "Tax Man". Oh, the ironic irony of irony.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
As far as Michael Jackson goes, I'm just glad that I don't have to listen to any more of his lame songs or all the hype about what a genius he is. Mind you, every article that mentions him inevitably gushes about how brilliant he was so you can't escape it entirely.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
When Jackson died I recall the media blurting out that he died bankrupt. So much for media lies and more media lies.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
However, not even an expert on this phenomenon has cracked the cosmic calculus that determines who becomes a (dead) cash cow, and who doesn’t.

(Brian Jones was cool, talented, young and handsome too, but there’s never been much of a market for t-shirts with his face on them.)


That raises the question of why certain people are still in love with Che Guevara - and who gets all the money made from his T-shirts and other items containing his likeness? After all, he was a rabid Marxist so it would be interesting to know who profits from all those shirts and posters that are still displayed so proudly by our Marxists and Fellow Travellers.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is nothing like death to improve a man's reputation.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is odd how some celebrities grow in fame after death, while others fade away. I think it's a matter of how iconic one becomes.

Death didn't do for Freddy Mercury what it did for Jim Morrison, for example. Not sure how to explain that as Mercury was a far better singer who played to much larger crowds. Maybe Morrison was a better poet; howbeit, he was more of an icon.

Certain celebrities simply define an era. Their fame increases as people harken back to that era. That's the only way I can understand it.

But, yeah, if I were a lawyer, and thank God I'm not, I would definitely go into estate law. That is where the money is.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Morrison's stage antics -- including his run-ins with the law at a time when the media in general, and pop-culture media in particular, were celebrating run-ins with the law -- account for the difference. It separated him out from the other members of The Doors in a way Freddy Mercury isn't viewed by the public as being apart from Queen.

(Jackson's legal team was savvy in buying up the Beatles' catalog pretty much behind Paul McCartney's back at the same time as Michael was partnering with him on those diabetes-inducing early-1980s songs. But in the ensuing years they served him only slightly better than his medical people did. In this case, as much as you may hate the IRS $0 is a laughable number to value the song catalog at -- even a less-iconic figure like a Freddy Mercury would have to have his estate lawyers put at least some dollar value on the music he created).
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can buy that, but I think Morrison's poetry had a lot to do with it. Mercury was a better performer though.

At one point Queen held the record for largest single concert attendance. Then they were eclipsed by Kiss, who were subsequently eclipsed by Alice Cooper. Interestingly, all three concerts were held on a soccer field in Brazil. Cooper still holds the record. I believe that it's well over 200,000.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I heard Sir Paul talk about Michael Jackson buying the Beatles catalogue on the David Letterman Show. Michael told Paul he was going to do it but Paul didn't exactly take him seriously. At least that's the way sunny Sir Paul rehearsed the story. At least now Mr. McCartney owns all of the songs that he wrote.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hey now! The version of the Beatles' catalog legend that I heard was that Paul wanted to buy it for himself but just did not have the cash at the time they were available. He and Micheal were doing their collaboration at the time and had become friends. Micheal offered to buy the rights then and there and sell them on to Paul at the same price when Paul had the money together.

It was strictly a personal favor, nothing on paper, and when Mike realized the gold mine he had purchased he reneged on the verbal deal and their friendship was over.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's interesting to see all these different versions of the story. The version I remember, cited by McCartney himself, was that during one of their collaboration sessions - I think it was Ebony and Ivory - Jackson took him aside and asked him for some advice on what to invest in. McCartney said he told Jackson to think seriously about buying publishing rights to songs but wasn't specific about artists. Not long after, he learned that Jackson had bought McCartney's songs, something McCartney hadn't envisioned or intended. But McCartney accepted it as too late to undo.

I don't know how to account for all the different stories. They seem quite contradictory yet all seem to originate with McCartney. They can't all be true!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is simply appalling that the IRS is involved in this at all. They are asserting a billion dollars, but in reality it's worth what someone will pay for it. The last people in the world qualified to judge the worth of some property is a government bureaucrat who has no concept of worth as nothing the government does actually creates wealth in any way.

This wealth has been taxed and taxed again. It was taxed when it was earned, it was taxed when it was transferred, and it will be taxed when it earns again. Now the government is in for half just because Jackson died.

The death tax is indefensible on so many levels...
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
My personal feelings about Micheal Jackson and his odious family aside, I have to side with them on this. The idea of the IRS arbitrarily deciding the value of such an intangible asset and taxing it after the fact is outrageous.

Mike paid his taxes when he made his money. I'm sure he and his team made the most of whatever shelters and tricks were available and legal. Taxing Mike's corpse over and over is just unconscionable.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
One thing is for certain. If I was a celebrity (thank goodness I'm not!), I would be very suspicious of any manager/lawyer pushing an excessive lifestyle. Kinda like hoping that an OD would occur so they could rake in the money.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wish we could get ahold of more insider accounts. Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that this is a scandal right up there with Hollywood pedophilia.

I'm betting that young stars are surrounded with management and enablers (including costume designers, publicists, attorneys, Dr. Feelgoods, and choreographers) 24/7/365 whose principal interest is in getting their charges to make outrageous spectacles of themselves on stage and off. To milk them dry of every last ounce of notoriety then toss aside their burnt-out husks.

Billy Ray says he can't even get near Miley these days. For all we know, she's been replaced with a fembot.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
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