Michael Jackson is by far one of the most iconic entertainers of our time, an icon who created a signature sound that will never be duplicated
After his death in 2009 at the age of 50, his musical legacy and business savvy were often overshadowed by his personal problems.
Author Zach O’Malley Greenburg looks to right that wrong in his forthcoming biography, Michael Jackson, Inc., which gives MJ fans some insight into why “The King Of Pop” was more than just a trailblazer in music, but in business as well.
Born and raised in New York City and a proud product of the hip-hop generation (he recounts one of his first musical purchases being Puff Daddy & The Family’s No Way Out), Greenburg has reported on how some the genre’s biggest stars make their money. As a senior editor for Forbes, Greenburg has been quite influential in letting us know the scoop behind top earners in hip-hop via the extremely popular annual Cash Kings list; a list that has been offering bragging rights to emcees since 2007.
“My career really started with hip-hop, and it’s fun to see as I’ve been covering it, it’s grown more and more into the mainstream,” said Greenburg.
In 2012, Greenburg released his first book entitled Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office, an in-depth exploration of how Jay Z became the mogul he is today. While writing this book, Greenburg became acquainted with Borbay, a New York based pop artist whom shared his love of hip-hop.
Says Greenburg: “I met Borbay a couple of years ago and he had seen the hip-hop ‘Cash Kings’ package. He kinda came across it because he had just done an exhibition called the ‘Kings of Hip-Hop’, which were his renditions of the most important figures in the genre. As a coincidence, they happened to be almost completely overlapping with the top seven earners in hip-hop on my Cash Kings list.”
This chance meeting evolved into a friendship that would lead the two to work together in the not too distant future.
Fast forward a year and Greenburg is working on a second book, Michael Jackson Inc., a retrospective of the Michael Jackson empire, aided by 100 never-before-told interviews of some of the industry’s biggest names, including the likes of Berry Gordy, 50 Cent, Sheryl Crow, and many more. He developed the angle for his book in the wake of Jackson’s death while covering the value of the Sony ATV catalogue Jackson had acquired in the mid-1980s.
“As I went on with that story, and the business of MJ and his financial life after death, the astounding amount of money he’s made since he died, over $700 million. That is more than any single living act has made over that period of time,” said Greenburg.
Greenburg believes that Jackson “was a trailblazer in the monetization of fame,” having been one of the first artists to have their own shoe line, a clothing line, and have a label simultaneously.
He tapped Borbay to collaborate on a cover image for the book. The end result was a bold painted portrait of the King of Pop at the height of his fame during the Bad era, layered with New York Post headlines on the face, projecting popular opinion on the iconic singer.
Greenburg hopes his book will open the eyes of Jackson fans of all walks of life to his business acumen.
“He laid the groundwork for this, and I think a lot of people forget or never even knew what a good businessman he was because of the late life struggles.”
Michael Jackson, Inc.: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of a Billion-Dollar Empire will be released on June 3, 2014. It is now available for pre-order at mjinc.co.
Andrea K Castillo is a freelance writer & blogger.