NEW YORK - Michael Jackson topped an annual list of the top-earning dead celebrities on Wednesday for the fourth straight year, far outstripping fellow musical icons Prince and David Bowie who passed away earlier this year.
Jackson, who died in 2009, raked in a bumper US$825 million (S$1.1 billion) in earnings for the 12 months ending Oct 1, according to estimates from Forbes.
That came mostly from the Jackson estate's US$750 million sale of the late singer's remaining stake in the Sony/ATV music publishing catalog - which includes the rights to many Beatles songs - to Sony Corp.
Sales of Prince albums soared after the musician died of an accidental drug overdose in April. Forbes ranked him in fifth place overall with estimated earnings of US$25 million, just below Elvis Presley with US$27 million.
Bowie, whose surprise death of cancer in January came days after a new album release, outsold both Presley and Jackson in albums and singles in 2016, but the British singer's overall estimated earnings were a comparatively small US$10.5 million, Forbes said.
Golf legend Arnold Palmer, who died in September at age 87 , claimed the No. 3 spot with earnings of US$40 million, mostly from licensing and endorsements of his signature Arnold Palmer iced tea and lemonade drink, leisure wear label, and golf course designs.
Forbes' estimates were based on pretax income, before management and legal expenses, and were compiled through interviews with estate experts and data on record sales, touring, and movie earnings.