Death Boosts Jackson's Finances

Jackson's music is suddenly hot again, after years when his records didn't sell.

HOLLYWOOD, Calif., June 27, 2009 — -- The mystery of Michael Jackson's death may be getting the most attention, but it's the mystery of his finances that is quietly consuming a small army of creditors, lawyers and agents.

"It's possible the children are going to get everything. It's possible the children get nothing," said Ed McCaffery, a law professor at the University of Southern California. "This is going to take years to sort out."

At the time of his death, Jackson was famous for his money troubles and was an estimated half-billion dollars in debt.

But an untimely celebrity death can -- in the strange workings of the entertainment industry -- launch a celebrity to unprecedented financial heights.

Revenue from Jackson's songs is now skyrocketing and is expected to triple this year because of his death.

In just the last 24 hours, a Las Vegas auction of Jackson memorabilia including a crystal studded shirt has found new life.

The auction was planned before the death and was being held on Jackson's behalf. It was expected to fetch only $6,000, but has already brought in more than $200,000 dollars as interest spiked with word of Jackson's death.

"When somebody dies, the value goes up," according to the auction's owner. "But this one is special because it's him."

It is possible to get some sense of how Jackson's estate could evolve based on what transpired with another King of music.

Elvis Presley hadn't had a hit in years and was worth just under $5 million when he died.

Today his name and music earn as much as $50 million a year.

"I think if Michael Jackson's estate is able to open the doors to Neverland, and turn it into a theme park, it has every opportunity to be as powerful and popular as I would say Elvis's Graceland," Billboard magazine editorial director Bill Werde said.

But where Elvis has Graceland, Jackson's Neverland was only partially owned by the pop star.

And while it's being eyed as a potential money maker, any future revenue may all go to creditors.

In fact Jackson's single largest asset will also likely go towards paying off debts.

Sales of Jackson's Music Skyrocketed Since His Death

He owned a $500 million share in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which holds the rights to music by the Beatles among many other highly valuable artists.

Still, once the debts are cleared, industry insiders say there is a strong chance of a profitable future for the Jackson estate.

"There's a very good chance that this estate ends up in the black," Forbes senior editor Mathew Miller said. "But it's not going to happen next week and not going to happen next year. Lawyers are going to make their careers off of the bankruptcy of Michael Jacksons' estate."

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events