According to Forbes Magazine, physicist Albert Einstein is the fifth highest earning dead celebrity of 2007. Perched atop of list for the sixth time in its seven-year history was the King of Rock-and-Roll Elvis Presley, whose estate earned $49 million dollars in the period between October 2006 and October 2007 (with $35 million of that amount generated by Graceland admissions alone).
Former Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison were second and fourth respectively, due mostly to the settlement of two long-standing legal disputes: one with Apple over the Cupertino company's decision to enter the music business and the other with record label EMI over alleged unpaid royalties. Preceding Einstein on the list in fourth place was Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, whose comic strips are still syndicated daily in thousands of newspapers around the world.
Einstein, whose iconic image has graced posters, t-shirts and coffee mugs for years, has been a fixture on the lucrative dead celebrity licensing scene but has only risen to the rank of superstar in the last two years. In 2007, his estate earned $18 million, thanks mostly to the Disney-owned Baby Einstein franchise, which produces a line of instructional CDs and DVDs, toys, books, flash-cards and other products aimed at infants aged 3 months to 3 years.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is the beneficiary of the Einstein estate and receives all proceeds from merchandizing and licensing fees, which are now handled by Corbis, a purveyor of photography, film footage and related rights based in Seattle, Washington and privately owned by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Gates created the company in 1989 and stores its photography collection (including images by luminaries like Ansel Adams) 220 feet underground at a storage facility in a former limestone mine near Butler, Pennsylvania, run by Iron Mountain Inc.
Corbis also represents rights-holders directly, as is the case with Einstein, and serves in this capacity for the estates of Andy Warhol and Steve McQueen, who placed sixth and ninth on the Forbes Dead Celebrity List.
Corbis recently acquired the licensing rights on behalf of Einstein's estate, and those of a number of other celebrities and historical figures, as part of its purchase of Beverly Hills' Roger Richman Agency. That former company maintained a licensing program website at www.albert-einstein.net, which included the online style guides for the Einstein Brand and its two sub-brands (Imagination and Knowledge). Aimed at graphic artists and product and packaging designers, these style guides ensure consistency across all official merchandise by standardizing color and font usage as well as providing logos, icons, background patterns and other design elements, and can be used by existing or potential licensees to create prototypes and finished products.
Given the continued popularity of the father of modern physics and the massive revenue potential he represents, we may have to rethink his most famous equation and render it anew as Einstein=Much Cash2.