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Michael Jackson estate earns $275M in 2010

Michael Jackson

By Kim Palacios

hollywoodnews.com: According to Parade Magazine’s recent celebrity salary expose, 2010 earnings for Michael Jackson’s estate totaled an unfathomable $275M. Though the figure is impressive, even more impressive are the mountains of debt the pop icon left behind.

At the time of Jackson’s death, the net indebtedness of his estate was estimated at north of $300M. Per the Wall Street Journal, Jackson’s mother Katherine’s home, was in jeopardy of being lost if a loan worth tens of millions of dollars was not repaid to the lender (in this case, a hedge fund). Jackson had also amassed a long list of smaller, but significant bills, such as $341,000 still owed to Thomas Mesereau, the lawyer who helped him escape conviction for molestation.

Of the $275M in 2010 earnings, an estimated $60M was collected for rights to distribute the documentary “This is It”; $11M came from Beatles song library dividends; and the bulk of the remainder came from album sales and copyrighted song royalties.

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About Kim Palacios

Kim Palacios is a San Francisco Bay Area transplant whose epicurean tendencies are matched only by her wanderlust. While not covering food, wine, and luxury travel for her column on Examiner.com, she guest writes for Travel Writers Exchange and a number of other varied-topic blogs. She is quadrilingual and holds an M.B.A. in Finance (neither of which she uses much these days). While not mourning the death of free markets and grumbling about the tax treatment of Californians, she enjoys film, and all things Twilight.

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  • March 13, 2011 | Permalink |

    Is it not true that MJ could have erased all of his debts in one day if he’d wanted to, through the sale of his portion of the Beatles/Northern Songs catalogue?

  • March 13, 2011 | Permalink |

    Michael never had financial problems. The media hated him because he was a rich and very powerful black man. Michael was too perfect for this world. MJJ reigns supreme.

  • March 13, 2011 | Permalink |

    Michael had cash flow issues. He had more than enough equity if he wanted to clear out his debt. His issue was only liquid cash-flow.

    He also wasn’t helped to “escape” molestation charges. He was found innocent by a jury of his peers.

  • March 13, 2011 | Permalink |

    @K.Seabrooke To answer your question, I have also heard speculation about the value of the Beatles portfolio, but I don’t think anybody can be sure. The estimated value of the portfolio is also a factor of time. Michael Jackson paid one price for the portfolio years ago; if he were still alive, and had no financial troubles, they would be able to command a high price; now that he has died and has a high level of debt, the bidding price would be much lower…

  • March 13, 2011 | Permalink |

    white people so worried about a black man money issues all b/c the man was RPB= RICH POWERFUL AND BLACK y is this topic so important about his money? so much michael have been in debt but he wasn’t broke he didn’t die in some flea bag one bedroom apartment on food stamps no he died in a big house that he was paying a 100’000 a month he was renting it but hell he could afford it. it was his money he work 4 it . im not a racist but i know how white people are . true he was debt but he wasn’t so damn broke like the media trying to say he was that y Michael was hated so much cause he was rich powerful and black

  • March 13, 2011 | Permalink |

    Ms. Palacios–I’ll second Magsy17’s comment–He didn’t “escape” conviction of those charges–he was found NOT GUILTY by a jury of conservative “white” jurors. Tom Mesereau dissected and carefully demolished the testimony of nearly every person representing the prosecution. The trial should never have happened. It was pure greed and the unrelenting obsession of a certain DA that succeeded in forcing an innocent man to stand trial for a crime he didn’t commit. Sorry to zero in on your comment, but frankly those who know the truth are just weary of having to constantly take issue with such statements. MJ’s real money problems involved liquidity. People underestimate the value of MJ’s $ony/ATV catalogue–that is with the exceptions of $ony itself.

  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |

    There’s a big difference between consumer debt and acquisition debt. Acquisition debt involves multi-million dollar purchases of ventures where a significant percentage of the purchase price is financed through leverage borrowing. The assets of the acquired company are used as collateral for the borrowed capital.

    When Northern Songs–a music catalog holding thousand of songs, including the Beatles’ back catalog–was put up for sale, Jackson took immediate interest in the catalog. He was warned that he would face strong competition. “I don’t care. I want those songs,” Jackson said to his entertainment attorney John G Branca. “Get me those songs, Branca.”

    Jackson eventually beat the rest of the competition, including Paul McCartney, in negotiations for the Northern Songs catalog, which lasted 10 months. He evenually purchased the catalog for $47.5 million.

    Jackson used equity in his own catalog, MIJAC, along with the acquired assets from Northern Songs for loan qualification, with the newly acquired assets structured for equity to flow towards servicing the debt.

    In 1995, Jackson merged his Northern Songs catalog with Sony’s publishing division creating Sony/ATV Music Publishing. This deal gave Jackson half ownership in Northern Songs as well as half ownership in Sony/ATV. It also included distribution rights to thousands more songs. With the merger, Sony/ATV became the third largest music publishing venture in the world. Both Jackson and the Sony people were equal partners and vowed to become the world’s largest catalog.

    Late in 2001, Jackson and Sony acquired Tony Martin’s Baby Mae Music catalog of 600 songs.

    In July 2002, they bought country music publisher Acuff-Rose for $157 million. The venture included publishing rights to 55,000 songs.

    And in November 2007, Jackson and Sony bought Famous Music LLC from Viacom. This deal gave the King of Pop rights to songs by Eminem, Shakira and Beck, among others. The venture included the assumption of a $30 million debt. They purchased the business for $370 million.

    Bottom line. If Jackson was debt ridden, it makes more sense to believe his indebtedness of “$500 million” resulted from acquiring multi-million dollar ventures, and not, as media myth makers would have it, “lavish spending.”

    BTW, the so called “Beatles catalog” is only fractionally composed of songs by the Beatles. Wiki for Sony/ATV catalog for the full story.

  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |

    My comment is in the interest of journalism which is accurate and can be supported by facts. Your statement that Mr Jackson “escaped” being convicted is anything but truthful. He was found innocent by a jury of his peers. After reading the court transcripts, it was perfectly clear that he was in fact being targeted and the DA, Tom Sneddon, had falsified evidence against Mr Jackson. This was all brought out in court. So, please be sure that your comments are based on facts. In light of this, I suggest you remove the use of the word “escaped” from this article.

  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |

    Seems to me that a 5 month long, excruciating trial played out on a world stage that
    ultimately cleared Jackson of all charges was in no way an ‘escape’. Jackson’s celebrity
    brought media hordes with a decided and obvious focus on and for conviction. This was an
    all white jury in conservative Santa Barbara County who obviously saw through the
    attempts of an obsessed DA and grifter family’s attempt at extortion.

    With the author’s use of the word ‘escape’, the implication is that the legal process and
    ultimate decision in this case can be dismissed. There are excellent referrals by other
    commentors that Ms. Palacios might consider reviewing before continuing the myth
    that Jackson was cleared because of his celebrity.

  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |

    Tom Mesereau did not help Michael “escape” from anything. Michael was found not guilty in a court of law by a jury of his peers. Michael was innocent of those bogus charges brought by an out of control prosecutor, who should have been brought up on evidence tampering charges, among others. Michael Jackson was not “heavily in debt”; he had cash flow problems brought by years of manipulation fbyhangers on and handlers who did not have his best interests uppermost. I do not understand why these mischaracterizations continue to be put out there nearly two years after Michael’s death.

  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |

    Although as other posters have pointed out, Ms. Palacios is incorrect in her assessment of Michael Jackson’s financial situation, I would also like to point out that it was unnecessary to use the word “escape” when referring to justice with regard to the allegations of 1993 and 2003 involving Mr. Jackson. It is no longer acceptable for a “journalist” to use unsubstantiated claims when reporting on Michael Jackson. If Ms. Palacios had done any research regarding either the trial of 2005 or the integrity of Mr. Jackson, she would not have used a a term like escape to describe what happened to the superstar. Besides the fact that Michael Jackson was acquitted of all charges in 2005, if Ms. Palacios had done her homework she would have found abundunt evidence for his acquittal. Over a 16-year period, the malicious district attorney in Santa Barbara had the FBI investigate Mr. Jackson–the result was that absolutely nothing was found regarding any illicit behavior on the part of Mr. Jackson. Aphrodite Jones wrote a book concerning the 2005 trial and the media’s role in sabatoging Michael Jackson and Larry Nimmer produced a documentary regarding what really was behind Mr. Sneddon’s witch hunt entitled “Neverland: The Untold Story”. It is requested that in the future, Ms. Palacios look into what she is reporting on before she makes the mistake of inaccurately assessing a situation or individual.

  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |

    Mr Mesereau didn’t help Michael “escape” conviction. Michael was innocent to begin with and the evidence presented in court proved that. The only person who “escaped” conviction was Janet Arvizo, who should have been prosecuted for lying about what really happened at Neverland – NOTHING! I am so sick of the cheap shots taken at Michael who did nothing but try continuously to help those in need. Get your facts straight and watch your wording. The man is no longer with us – show some respect and think of those he left behind. Journalists need to police themselves and stop persecuting this remarkable man. RIP Michael

  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |

    Michael Jackson’s indebtness was largely due to acquisition as noted above by Libelfreezone. The Sony/ATV catalog as owned 50% by Sony and 50% by the Michael Jackson Estate is valued upwards of 1 billion dollars. The acquisition debt was largely due to the purchase of additional song copyrights for this business. There is a lot of information available out there about what those copyrights are comprised of in addition to the 200 Lennon/McCartney songs originally acquired by Michael Jackson in the mid 80’s. Sony/ATV song copyrights included songs by Lady Gaga, Elvis, Eminem, and Taylor Swift to name a few. The Sony/ATV website has them all listed if you would care to do a little homework. As far as “escape” conviction. Found not guilty by a full jury in a sham trial based on the lies of grifters and a corrupt DA trying to manufacture evidence. Trial transcripts and FBI files tell the true story. I sure wish members of the media could educate themselves a little more before writing more crap about Michael Jackson. This reporter is no exception and I am disappointed once again in the media. I could do a better job on an article like this.

  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |

    I beg to differ, Kim Palacios. Michael Jackson did not “escape” a conviction at his 2005 trial. Sure, his lawyer Tom Mesereau was outsandingly brilliant in defending him, but ANY lawyer would have won this case, based on the grifter family accusing Michael of terrible crimes, and thankfully the jury of 12 of his peers could easily see their ultimate goal was a fat paycheck.

    What a shame that the media didn’t pick up on this and report responsibly, instead of salivating over the thought of Mr. Jackson going to prison. Luckily though, justice prevailed for Michael. But what a terrible injustice that in the publics’ eyes, the Arvizos were allowed to crawl back into the woodwork from whence they came with their reputations intact.

  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |


    If you want to be considered a respected “journalist”, you should live by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics whose goal is to seek truth and report it fairly. When you use innuendos like “Thomas Mesereau, the lawyer who helped him [Michael Jackson] escape conviction for molestation”, you are not being truthful nor fair. This is absolutely a false statement because it has an implied meaning that Jackson was guilty. As many posters have already stated, Jackson was indeed found not guilty by a jury of his peers on June 13, 2005. Please make a correction in your article by removing the “helped him escape” remark and replacing it with a more appropriate phrase like, “Thomas Mesereau, the lawyer who represented Michael Jackson in 2005 when he was falsely accused of molestation”.

    Also, since you hold an M.B.A. in Finance, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that Michael Jackson wasn’t broke…his cash flow may have been low, but a pauper he was not.

    “In 1985, he [Jackson] shelled out $47.5 million to buy a publishing catalog that included 250 Beatles songs. Ten years later Sony paid Jackson $90 million for half the rights, forming a joint venture called Sony/ATV.”

    “Today, the Jackson estate and Sony share ownership of the catalog, which now boasts half a million songs including titles by Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Eminem and other artists. Insiders place the catalog’s value somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion, based on estimated proceeds of $50 million to $100 million per year. The estimate marks a 3,000% increase in value from the catalog’s initial purchase price — better than the 1,650% return on Class A shares of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway since 1990.”


  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |

    Thanks to all of you for your comments and for standing up for what you believe in. Please allow me to do the same, and to respond:

    My intention: My intention in writing this article was not to revive the issue of Michael Jackson’s innocence or guilt, as should be clear from the article’s headline. I hold no personal opinion as to whether Jackson was innocent or guilty, because I was not involved in the trial and do not pretend to know all the facts of the case. Any suggestion that I intended to malign Jackson is false, and I am sorry if anybody read that as my intention. However, just because some readers have reacted to my language does not mean that I will apologize for the correct usage of the word “escape”.

    My words: “Escape” means “to get away” or “to issue from confinement”; “acquit” means “to discharge completely”. I might agree with some of your comments had I used the word “evade”, which clearly implies deceitful or unscrupulous behavior. But I did not use “evade”, nor any word that implies deceit. For those who questioned my journalistic integrity, real journalists know what words really mean, even if that is not how they are commonly used in the public vernacular. I can only control my choice of language based on what words really mean–I can’t control people taking words out of my mouth.

    My sources: My sources for citing facts in this article were Parade Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. Those who claimed that my numbers are wrong are welcome to view the sources I drew from and draw your own opinions. However, the assertion that the article was not researched is false. The source links were included all along.

    On misdirected anger: There are plenty of people out there who really are trying to malign Michael Jackson, to sully his reputation and discredit his memory. I did not write an anger-driven piece that assassinated Jackson’s character, and I respectfully request that you not assassinate mine.

  • March 14, 2011 | Permalink |

    Kim – “Any suggestion that I intended to malign Jackson is false, and I am sorry if anybody read that as my intention.”

    I made no suggestion that you intentionally meant to malign Jackson, actually, I didn’t think this was your intention at all. I do think that if you are writing an article for the general public, you should be aware how certain words can carry double meanings or inferences that you may not have intended. When it comes to reporting on Jackson, the media has not always been fair and balanced as you should be well aware of.

    Kim – “”Escape” means “to get away” or “to issue from confinement”; “acquit” means “to discharge completely”.”

    Jackson was in fact acquitted of all counts on June 13, 2005, so why not just state the facts and not use words that can be misconstrued or misinterpreted by the general public.

    Kim – “I did not write an anger-driven piece that assassinated Jackson’s character, and I respectfully request that you not assassinate mine.”

    Who is assassinating your character? When you invite comments on an article you have written, don’t expect everyone to agree with everything you write. Your character was never impugned, only the choice of your words “escape conviction”.

  • March 15, 2011 | Permalink |

    I’m sorry, Ms. Palacios, but I think you know exactly what is meant by the word ‘escape’ and
    how it can be interpreted. There has been manipulation of words and meanings surrounding
    Mr. Jackson for years. The simple fact is, he did not ‘escape’ anything and most particularly
    in that trial. For too long there has been no push back against just this sort of thing…you
    may not have intended harm or to convey what you did, but the fact is you fell right into
    what media has been doing to that man for years. Perhaps next time just think a moment
    about the words you use and in what context. There are many people watching and
    paying attention now, and you will be called on it, just as others are.

  • May 24, 2011 | Permalink |

    We the people who follow MJ news are the most loyal fans ever. There has never been more loyal fans. This is why everyone scrutinizes the articles and words written about Michael. He had a very difficult life in many many ways. We love him and stand up for him, especially after his death because he has no way to defend himself now. I only wish Howard Mann was involved with the family during this particular time. `He would have handled things far better than the estate did. God bless the Jackson family.

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