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Elvis crowned king on ‘dead rich’ list

29 October 2004

In Forbes magazine’s new rich list of the highest-paid dead celebrities, Elvis has swept the board with an annual income of $40 million (£22m), trouncing the earning power of uber-visible stars with discernable heartbeats, such as David Beckham (£20.5m.)

The BBC reports that Elvis’ fanatical fans have continued to buy merchandise and visit his palatial Graceland home some 27 years after his death, giving Elvis’ estate, run by his musician daughter Lisa Marie, a healthy income from a myriad of licensing deals that allow his intellectual property (mostly his image and music) to be used on products and services.

Elvis’ new products include a clothing line and a musical on Broadway, and his music was recently used in the Disney kid-pic Lilo and Stich, as well as a Dolce and Gabbana Elvis-themed fashion show in Milan, all of which have helped him maintain a high public profile.

According to Brand Republic, Elvis look-alikes have also surfaced in two current ad campaigns running now on UK TV screens. The first, for Kingsmill bread, tells the mythical story of how Elvis started a bakery during his only visit to the UK in the 1960s and was created by leading ad agency J Walter Thomson in what can only be termed an extreme case of lateral thinking. The second campaign is for AOL, the internet ISP, and features a chinese Elvis impersonator, showing how AOL members can search for music content.

The Forbes ‘dead rich list’ shows the fortunes of 15 deceased stars, with Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkein coming in 3rd and John Lennon running at fourth in the list with an estimated annual income of $21m (£11m). (See here for a recent Own It article on the 'John Lennon' trainers forthcoming from Converse.)

A spokesman said: "The earning power of most deceased people, even famous ones, slows considerably or stops altogether when they die. "But for a select few, the pay cheques keep coming and some draw even bigger pay-days than when they were alive."

Elvis doesn’t come close to the UK’s highest earner, Roman Abramovich, who earned £564m in 2003 from his Russian oil company Sibneft and the sale of his stake in Aeroflot.

The Forbes list in full:

1. Elvis Presley $40m (£22m)
2. Charles Schulz $35m (£19m)
3. JRR Tolkien $23m (£12.5m)
4. John Lennon $21m (£11m)
5. Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel $18m (£10m)
6. Marilyn Monroe $8m (£4.3m)
7. George Harrison $7m (£3.8m)
=7. Irving Berlin $7m
=7. Bob Marley $7m
10. Richard Rodgers $6.5m
11. George and Ira Gershwin $6m
=11. Jimi Hendrix $6m
=11. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe $6m
=11. Cole Porter $6m
15. James Dean $5m (£2.7m)
=15. Dale Earnhardt Sr $5m
=15. Jerry Garcia $5m
=15. Freddie Mercury $5m
=15. Tupac Shakur $5m
=15. Frank Sinatra $5m

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