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Michael Jackson Overtakes Cosby as Highest-Paid Entertainer

September 18, 1988 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Michael Jackson has moonwalked his way past Bill Cosby to become the world’s highest paid entertainer, raking in an estimated $60 million this year, Forbes magazine reports.

Jackson, who was ranked ninth on last year’s Forbes Top 40 list of the wealthiest celebrities, is expected to earn a total of $97 million for 1987 and 1988, Forbes says in its Oct. 3 edition.

The 30-year-old entertainer made approximately $40 million from his recent worldwide tour and the rest came from sales of his album ″Bad,″ his autobiography, ″Moonwalk,″ Pepsi endorsements and other music publishing, the magazine says.


Cosby, who held the No. 1 slot on last year’s list with 1986-87 income of $84 million, was relegated to No. 2 in the current list with $92 million in earnings for 1987 and 1988, Forbes says.

The youngest entertainer on the list is 22-year-old heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. Tyson’s earnings skyrocketed from $10 million in 1987 to approximately $45 million this year, the highest 1988 income behind Jackson’s, the magazine estimates.

Two other boxers, Sugar Ray Leonard and Michael Spinks, made the list, with $27 million and $17 million, respectively, in earnings for the two-year period.

In contrast, the income of America’s top-grossing executive, Charles Lazarus of Toys R Us Inc., averaged $31.5 million a year for 1986 and 1987, the most recent two-year period for which executive pay records are available. Lazarus made $60 million, including about $56 million in one-time stock gains, in 1987.

In addition to Jackson, the top 10 wealthiest celebrities and their two- year incomes are:

-Bill Cosby, actor, $92 million.

-Steven Spielberg, movie maker, $64 million.

-Sylvester Stallone, actor, $63 million.

-Eddie Murphy, comedian and actor, $62 million.

-Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts cartoonist, $62 million.

-Bruce Springsteen, rock star, $61 million.

-Mike Tyson, heavyweight boxing champion, $45 million.

-Madonna, singer and actress, $46 million.

-Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor, $43 million.

The magazine notes that the top 10 averaged at least $21 million for each of the last two years. Lazarus was the only business executive to exceed that average. Chrysler Corp.’s Lee Iaccoca came close with an average annual income for 1986 and 1987 of $19 million.


Thirty other entertainers were included on the list, with Frank Sinatra pulling in the rear with $16 million, the minimum two-year income needed to qualify for this year’s list.

Forbes also notes that in death, perhaps more so than in life, entertainers continue to fill pocketbooks as well as hearts.

″For many people the money is no longer in the performance but in the aura the performance left behind,″ the magazine says.

Elvis Presley’s estate, for example, will earn approximately $15 million this year, including $11 million from Graceland Mansion, the home Presley purchased in 1957 for $100,000 that now is a museum honoring the entertainer.

Other deceased entertainers whose estates are making in excess of $1 million annually are Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, $7.5 million; John Lennon, ex-Beatle, $5 million; Jimi Hendrix, guitarist, $4.0 million; T.S. Eliot, poet and author, $2.5 million; and James Dean, actor, $1.2 million.

The Forbes Top 40 ranking includes five women. In addition to Madonna, the list contains Oprah Winfrey, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Jane Fonda.

The magazine says this year’s list knows no racial boundaries, noting that 25 percent of those on the list are black.

″If entertainment statistics were valid evidence of racial bias, one would have to conclude that blacks are privileged in our society,″ it says. Forbes also says the list knows no international borders and shows an evolving culture, with 17 of the top 40 in the music business.

″No longer are steel mills or auto factories or oil wells the principal sources of great wealth,″ it says. ″In the postindustrial society, the once despised entertainment industry has usurped that role.″