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Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and managing an artist's estate

When Michael Jackson died in 2009, he was just about broke. His reputation was trashed among allegations of child abuse, and his beloved Neverland estate was in disrepair and deeply in debt. The tour that Jackson was preparing for was going to be his ticket back to solvency.

It didn't quite work out that way. After his death, his legacy became his estate's ticket to solvency. By 2014, Jackson's estate had earned more than $600 million. The executors, named in his 2002 will, had done a masterful job.

The thing is, though, Jackson had a will. Not all music legends have been that well-prepared. Take Marvin Gaye, who died 25 years before Jackson without a will.

If Jackson was the King of Pop, Gaye was the Prince of Soul. He had a long list of hits and near hits over his decades-long career, and he had a troubled personal life that, sadly, ended when his father shot and killed him in 1984. Family members think of his death as a suicide.

Like Jackson, Gaye was in serious debt at the time of his death. He lived large and avoided paying taxes for years. He owed $9 million when he died; adjusting for inflation, that works out to more than $20 million in 2015 dollars. Not really in Jackson's league -- Billboard reported that Jackson owed $400 million when he died -- but plenty deep in debt.

Gaye, however, had his music. He had songs he had written and recorded, recordings he had produced, recordings of his performances … all sources of income, if managed correctly.

We'll finish this up in our next post.


Crain's Wealth, "Blurred lines surround estate of Marvin Gaye," Andy and Danielle Mayoras, April 15, 2015

Rolling Stone, "Michael Jackson Estate Has Big Plans for King of Pop's Vaults," Steve Knopper, June 9, 2014

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