The Top Earning Celebrities, Dead and Alive

by visualcapitalist

Wealth does not always follow fame, but when properly monetized, stardom can be a powerful tool for building a fortune.

The act of turning one’s self into a marketing machine is epitomized by 21-year-old Kylie Jenner, who was the fourth highest earning celebrity in 2018. Leveraging her massive social media following, Jenner has turned Kylie Cosmetics into a force to be reckoned with. Recently, Forbes valued her company at over $900 million.

Today, we look at not only the world’s top earning living celebrities, but also the estates of the celebrities who are no longer with us as well.

FAME AND FORTUNE

With a nickname like “Money”, it comes as no surprise that 2018’s top earning celebrity was Floyd Mayweather. The boxer’s bouts in 2015 and 2017 are still the top earning pay-per-view fights of all time, with the respective payouts propelling him to the top of the celebrity earnings list. His most recent opponent – Conor McGregor – also cashed in big, ranking 12th on the celebrity rich list.

Here is a full look at last year’s top earning celebrities:

top earning celebrities
View a high resolution version of this graphic.

Many celebrities earn big sums of money on specific contracts, so it makes sense that the top 10 shuffles a lot from year to year. Despite this, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is the sole celebrity to remain on this list for every year covered by the visualization.

Ed Sheeran’s Divide album was a runaway success earning him $110 million last year. Not only did the singer sell 1.1 million albums – an impressive feat in the digital age – he was the most streamed artist of 2017.

One somewhat surprising entry into the top 10 is Judy Sheindlin – better known as Judge Judy. Sheindlin reaped a huge windfall after selling her extensive 5,200-episode library to CBS.

POSTHUMOUS PROFITS

Some celebrities are so iconic that their influence extends well beyond their own lifespan.

Michael Jackson’s music is still thrilling listeners around the world, and as a result, his catalog is raking in the posthumous profits. In 2018, the late singer’s estate earned more money than any living celebrity, adding to the $2 billion already amassed since his passing in 2009.

Below is a full look at the top earning dead celebrities:

top earning dead celebrities
View a high resolution version of this graphic.

For the first time since 2006, Albert Einstein has fallen out of the top 10. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem owns the rights to Einstein’s likeness, and in the aughts the “Baby Einstein” brand helped them (and Disney) amass a fortune. The popularity of the Baby Einstein brand is waning, but other licencing deals could bump the famous physicist back into the list at some point in the future.

NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS

Even celebrities who passed away decades ago can continue earning a shocking amount of money. While income streams like song royalties continue rolling in automatically, some savvy companies purchase estates from family members and take the marketing of deceased personalities to the next level.

Companies like Authentic Brands Group, have turned timeless icons like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley into full-fledged brands generating tens of millions of dollars per year through licencing and royalties.

Artists like Bob Marley and Dr. Seuss produced a body of work that still captures our imaginations today, so it makes sense that their estates continue to profit as time goes on.

 

 

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