The Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities Of 2023

Being dead isn’t the gig it used to be. The 13 deceased musicians, authors and other A-listers on Forbes’ annual ranking of the highest-paid dead celebrities earned some $470 million during the past 12 months—a 70% decrease from the record-breaking $1.6 billion grossed in 2022.

The steep decline is due, in part, to the drop in nine-figure music catalog sales that boosted departed stars’ earnings into the heavens. More than half of last year’s top dead celebrities did so through acquisitions of their intellectual property. This year, only one did: The estate of Ray Manzarek, late keyboardist for the Doors, sold his interest in the band’s work to Primary Wave, alongside guitarist Robby Krieger. The deal, which sources tell Forbes was between $80 million and $100 million for both artists, puts Manzarek at No. 3 this year. But that is a flat world away from the $500 million the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, the long-deceased author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, received for his Middle Earth Enterprises in 2022, or the $250 million the estate of David Bowie got last year for his publishing catalog and masters.

Here are the 7 highest-paid celebrities of 2023.

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