How A Random Venezuelan Net Worth
There’s no debating the fact that Marilyn Monroe was an icon and she remains one nearly six decades after her untimely death. Monroe and her likeness are still big business, generating millions of dollars a year. Monroe’s photos and likeness are used to sell everything from t-shirts to posters to key chains to coffee mugs and beyond. When Marilyn died in 1962, she left no heirs and had a net worth of $800,000, which is equivalent to about $7 million today. She wasn’t very responsible with her money and spent lavishly on jewelry, clothes, and homes, as well as giving money to relatives, employees, and strangers. After her estate was settled, her fortune had declined to about $370,000. In her will, she gave $10,000 each to her longtime assistant and her half-sister. She put $5,000 in a trust fund for the education of her assistant’s child. She left a $100,000 trust fund for her mother.
Her physical property was left to her acting coach Lee Strasberg, whom she had been very close to during her life. In fact, Lee and his first wife Paula were basically surrogate parents to Marilyn. Strasberg was also left 75% of her intellectual property rights. The remaining 25% was given to her therapist, Dr. Marianne Kris. In 1980, Kris passed away, and her share in Monroe’s estate had earned steadily for her over the year. Kris left her money to the Anna Freud Centre for the Psychoanalytic Study and Treatment of Children in London.
Four years after Monroe died, in 1966, Paula Strasberg died. In 1967, Lee married actress Anna Mizrahi, a 28-year-old from Venezuela. When Lee died in 1982, Anna suddenly became the owner of 75% of Monroe’s estate. It is not clear whether Anna and Marilyn ever met, but for the sake of this story, we’ll assume they did not. Anna did quite well with her share of Monroe’s estate. She signed deals for thousands of products and endorsements for Monroe’s image. Anna turned Monroe into one of the highest-paid dead celebrities in the world and earned around $30 million for herself in the process. Eventually, Anna partnered with the celebrity management company CMG, who reportedly guaranteed Anna would make a minimum of $1 million a year. CMG’s main business is essentially peddling the images of dead celebrities. However, as it turned out, Anna made more than $7.5 million in licensing revenue in just the four years between 1996 and 2000. In 2000, Anna created Marilyn Monroe, LLC.
In 2005, four lawsuits were filed pitting Anna, CMG, and the heirs of four photographers who took the photos of Marilyn being licensed against each other. The lawsuits were filed in California, New York, and Indiana. The central issue in all of them was whether Monroe was a resident of California or New York at the time off her death. If Anna was proven right, Monroe was a Californian and she’d retain the right to license the celebrity images of Monroe, for which the four photographers owned the copyrights. If she was a New Yorker, the photographers would have been able to wipe out Anna’s business of licensing Marilyn’s image. In California, heirs retain the postmortem publicity rights to copyrighted photographs. In New York, the photographers retain the rights to their work.
It took seven years and multiple appeals for these lawsuits to eventually be settled. In 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Monroe was a resident of New York and the heirs of the photographers would retain the rights to license their images of the actress without approval from Anna Strasberg and CMG.
However, in a very interesting turn of events, the prior year, in January 2011, Anna has cashed out and sold her 75% stake in the Monroe estate to Authentic Brands Group for an estimated $20-30 million.
It turns out the smartest, most creative, and shrewdest business person in the whole mess was Anna Strasberg. Today, Anna Strasberg is 81 years old.