Elvis, John Lennon and Heath Ledger in list of wealthiest dead celebrities
John Lennon is the only Briton in a list of the highest-earning dead celebrities, US business magazine Forbes revealed today.
The Beatles' singer-songwriter, who was murdered in New York almost 28 years ago, earned $9m (£5.6m) last year from a string of "royalties, merchandising and licensing agreements".
Elvis Presley topped the list with £52m (£32.4m), despite being dead for more than 30 years, and Brokeback Mountain and Batman actor Heath Ledger, who died of an overdose in January, came third with £20m (£12.5m).
The Forbes listing said Lennon's income peaked in 2006 at $24m (£15m), mainly because of a one-off settlement among the Beatles, Apple and music distributor EMI.
But Forbes added: "Lennon is still doing fine. Imagine a steady stream of music-publishing royalties, merchandising and licensing agreements. Imagine nine million dollars a year, with most of it going to charity in pursuit of anti-war efforts."
Presley's success was put down to soaring attendance and merchandise sales at Graceland, with his income rising from $49m (£30.6m) last year to $52m (£32.4m).
And the magazine said Ledger's "tragic death" in his New York apartment "was magnified by the talent he displayed in the role of the Joker in this summer's blockbuster Batman film, The Dark Night".
"At the very least, he got paid well," it said. "Ledger scored a merchandising deal (Joker action figures, etc) and received a percentage of the box office. Throw in the up-front payments he received for his work on the unfinished film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Ledger earned an estimated 20 million dollars (£12.5m) over the last year."
The Forbes list calculates the earnings of the dead celebrities over the last 12 months.
The ten highest-earning dead celebrities were:
1. Elvis Presley (d. August 16, 1977, heart attack) - $52m (£32.4m)
2. Peanuts cartoonist Charles M Schulz (d. February 12, 2000, colon cancer) - $33m (£20.6m)
3. Heath Ledger (d. January 22, 2008, overdose) - $20m (£12.5m)
4. Albert Einstein (d. April 18, 1955, natural causes) - $18m (£11.2m)
5. TV producer Aaron Spelling (d. June 23, 2006, stroke) - $15m (£9.4m)
6. Author Dr Seuss (Theodor Geisel) (d. September 24, 1991, natural causes) - $12m (£7.5m)
7. John Lennon (d. December 8, 1980, murder) - $9m (£5.6m)
8. Andy Warhol (d. February 22, 1987, complications after gall-bladder surgery) - $9m (£5.6m)
9. Marilyn Monroe (d. August 5, 1962, overdose) - $6.5m (£4.1m)
10. Steve McQueen (d. November 30, 1980, complications from surgery) - $6m (£3.7m).