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With Halloween just around the corner, Forbes has released its weird (and probably a little morbid) annual list of the top-earning dead celebrities, led by Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. But at No. 3, for the second year in a row, is the late Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.
The cartoonist, who passed away in 2000 at age 77, is estimated to have earned $37 million this year — or at least his creations did. They’re owned by Peanuts Worldwide, a joint venture formed by Iconix Brand Group has partnered with the heirs of Charles M. Schulz, which in 2010 bought the rights to Peanuts from E.W. Scripps Co. (it was part of a $175 million deal for the entire United Media Licensing division, which includes Dilbert and Fancy Nancy). The property’s 1,200 licensing agreements generate annual retail sales of more than $2 billion worldwide.
As Forbes notes, Iconix — it owns Candie’s and London Fog, and now an 80-percent share in Peanuts — is banking on the beloved characters becoming even more popular, with Fox Animation developing a movie starring Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang. When the Peanuts deal was made three years ago, Iconix’s target was to bring in roughly $75 million in annual royalties; so there’s still some distance to go.
Also on the list is Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, at No. 10 with $9 million.