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July 9, 2009 10:54 AM

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Show Biz Kings Compete for Postmortem Profits

Forget having a lucrative life. Postmortem profits may be the true measure of an American icon¹s popularity. To be the top dog in the hereafter, Michael Jackson is going to have to bestElvis Presley, Charles Schulz, Heath Ledger and Albert...

Forget having a lucrative life. Postmortem profits may be the true measure of an American icon¹s popularity. To be the top dog in the hereafter, Michael Jackson is going to have to best
Elvis Presley, Charles Schulz, Heath Ledger and Albert Einstein, who took the first four spots in Forbes' list of highest-earning dead celebrities last year with a combined one-year take of $123 million.
Sorry Einstein, but the theory of relativity has nothing on "Thriller."

It is a pretty good bet that Jackson will soon beat out his competition. In the first full week since his death, Nielsen SoundScan reported that U.S. consumers snatched up 800,000 Jackson albums, a leap of 90 percent from the previous week. An Amazon vice president told the Associated Press that sales of the entertainer's albums and MP3s jumped by 700 times after the news of his death broke on June 25. And retailers from Kmart to Kitson are pushing Jackson-themed T-shirts like they¹re fish sticks on Friday during Lent.

Long before Jackson's passing, Presley was a model of death-defying success. His estate was said to be worth a trifling $5 million when he died in 1977. Twenty-eight years later, it swelled when media company CKX bought a controlling interest in Elvis Presley Enterprises for an estimated $100 million. Last year, Forbes' tallied his earnings to be $52 million.

The King of Rock 'n' Roll has been riding high in the afterlife, but the King of Pop may be encroaching on his territory. All hail the new chief of the moneyed heavens.

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