Michael Jackson outperforms Prince & Bowie on top-earning dead celebs list

His payday this year is the "biggest annual haul by any celeb dead or alive"...

Michael Jackson might have died way back in June 2009 but the 'Billie Jean' hit-maker is apparently still raking cash in at a tremendous rate, as Forbes names him the world's top-earning dead celebrity for the fourth year running.

In fact, the 12 months to October represented a record-breaking year for the late King of Pop, with his total pretax payday of $825 million ranking as "the biggest annual haul by any celeb dead or alive".

This was overwhelmingly helped by the sale of his half of the Sony/ATV music publishing catalogue in March

 Famously including Beatles songs – Paul McCartney had advised Jackson to get into music publishing, only for the younger star to outbid him for his own work – it sold for $750m.

In 1985, Jackson paid $47.5m ($140m in 2016 dollars) for the catalogue. Sony then paid him $115m to form a joint venture 10 years later before securing the other 50% this year.

The remaining $75m was still three times what Prince, who passed suddenly after an accidental drug overdose in his Paisley Park home in March, earned for the year. Jackson's '80s rival earned $25m to place in fifth, just below Elvis Presley with $27m.

Presley's total was down 50% from last year’s figure, due to a change in how Forbes accounts for Graceland ticket sales, but he still sold over a million albums (most of them physical) in the year.

While David Bowie, who succumbed to cancer in January, has outsold both Jackson and Elvis in terms of albums and singles in many major markets in 2016, his estimated earnings were a comparatively low $10.5m.

Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, dead 16 years now, claimed second spot with $48 million. Golf legend Arnold Palmer, who died at the age of 87 late last month, came in third thanks to earnings of $40m, mostly from licensing and endorsements of his Arnold Palmer beverages, leisure wear and golf course designs.

Forbes’ estimates were based on pre-tax income, before management and legal expenses, and compiled through interviews with estate experts and data on record sales, touring, and movie earnings.