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Michael Jackson estate earns millions after artist's passing

Michael Jackson estate: The late artist was in substantial debt when he died in 2009, but the Michael Jackson estate has since earned $310 million and industry players expect the estate will continue to earn millions for years to come.

By Alex DobuzinskisReuters / February 19, 2011

Michael Jackson estate: Boys pose after a dancing event to commemorate Michael Jackson in Tokyo on May 23, 2010. The event was held as a part of "the world's only official Michael Jackson exhibition." Since the artist's passing, the Michael Jackson estate has earned $310 million.

Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters/File

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Michael Jackson's estate has generated $310 million in revenue from album sales, a film, merchandising and other products since the "Thriller" singer died in 2009, according to court papers filed on Thursday.

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His estate's administrators have used $159 million to pay down the pop star's debt, which when Jackson died amounted to more than $400 million, court records show.

"Although there remain unresolved creditor claims, pending litigation and additional challenging business, tax and legal issues, and the estate is not yet in a condition to be closed, the executors have made substantial progress in reducing the estate's debt," the documents state.

The records, which were made public as part of the estate's probate proceedings, are the most detailed accounting yet of the finances of Jackson's estate from his death until December 31, 2010.

Beneficiaries of the estate are Jackson's children, his mother and various charities. Attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain were named administrators in a will the "Thriller" singer signed before he died in June 2009 from an overdose of drugs, most prominently the anesthetic propofol.

The singer's physician at the time, Dr. Conrad Murray, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death and has pleaded not guilty.

Jackson's 1982 release "Thriller" remains the best selling album of all time. Industry players think his estate can generate cash for years to come, just as dead stars like Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Elvis Presley continue to rake in millions.

Among the projects making money for Jackson's estate are the new album "Michael," which contains previously unreleased songs, and the concert movie "This Is It," which compiled videotaped rehearsals for a series of comeback concerts in London. Various merchandising and licensing deals have also swelled the coffers. Jackson's recordings are released by Epic Records, a unit of Sony Corp.

Noteworthy costs included a $900,000 payment to Forest Lawn Memorial cemetery where Jackson's body is interred, and $35,000 in expenses listed as "costume for memorial."

Administrators paid $27.2 million in taxes, as well as $5.3 million for Jackson family members and properties he owned. They made $4 million in mortgage payments on his properties.

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