Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29th 1958 in Gary, Indiana. At the tender age of 11, he hit the big time as a member of the Jackson 5, and by the early eighties had become a prominent solo artist.
He released his first solo album, Off The Wall, in 1979. The album produced two number one hits: Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough and Rock With You. This was the beginning of Jackson’s independent business career: following the album’s release, he secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry in 1980, pocketing 37 per cent of wholesale album profit. This netted him a $2 per album for his follow up hit in 1982, Thriller. He also began cashing in on the cult for Michael Jackson merchandise, producing dolls, t-shirts, calendars and other novelties, even selling 350,000 copies of the Thriller "making of" documentary.
Jackson began his independent music publishing career in 1985. He purchased the Beatles back catalogue, Northern Songs for $47.5m, despite objections from erstwhile friend Paul McCartney. The Beatle, who had greater personal wealth than Jackson at the time, refused to part with the sums necessary to enter a bidding war with the Bad star. He reportedly said, "I think it’s dodgy to do things like that. To be someone’s friend and then buy the rug they’re standing on." Jackson’s publishing holdings went on to be worth some $450m.
Meanwhile, Jackson was still raking in the cash for his albums, picking up 13 Grammy awards along the way. As of 2008, the Bad (1987) album has sold 30 million copies worldwide. The Bad world tour, held the same year and spanning 123 concerts to a total audience of 4.4 million, grossed $125m.
Jackson’s business portfolio also includes a number of property investments. He built the Neverland ranch at a reported cost of $17m. In 2003, Forbes valued the property at approximately $50m.
In another first for the music industry, Jackson renewed his contract with Sony for $65m in 1991. It was a record-breaking deal at the time. As of 2008, Dangerous, the album released that same year, has sold 32 million copies worldwide.
Then, in 1995, Jackson merged his Northern Songs catalog with Sony’s publishing division creating Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Jackson retained half-ownership of the company, earning $95 million upfront. He then made another financial windfall with the release of HIStory: Past Present and Future. HIStory is the best-selling multiple-disc album of all-time, with 20 million copies sold worldwide. Forbes placed Jackson’s annual income at $35m in 1996 and $20m in 1997.
But Michael Jackson has also seen a fair amount of financial strife. The star found himself in some $200m worth of debt in 2003, following the flop of Invincible, his last album. Sony bailed him out with a loan and Jackson used his 50 per cent interest in Sony ATV as collateral for the deal.
The comeback tour, scheduled this year from July 13th at London’s O2 arena, would have netted the star £50m, and put an end to Jackson’s immediate financial worries. However, with his sudden death from cardiac arrest on 25th June, ticket-holders are to be given a full refund. Although Ticketmaster are already looking to cash in on the star’s demise, announcing 50 nights of Michael jackson karaoke at the venue, at £2 a pop for tickets.