Many knew him as the King of Pop, but the King of Philanthropy? According to several recent articles, Michael Jackson gave to hundreds of charities, even reportedly earning the title of “Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star” in the 2000 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for supporting 39 charities. In 1985, in a move that undoubtedly inspired later large-scale celebrity-studded concerts and benefit songs, Jackson co-wrote the song “We are the World” with Lionel Ritchie and recorded it with scores of other celebrities to raise money for Ethiopia, which was hit with a disastrous famine in 1984 and 1985. The song made millions.
After the infamous fire on the set of a Pepsi commercial left Jackson with burns to his scalp in 1984, he sued Pepsi and donated the $1.5 million he received to a burn center in California. In 1992, Jackson created the Heal the World Foundation, which gave to needy children around the world, provided relief during the war in Bosnia and funded drug and alcohol abuse education. Although the foundation was shut down in 2002 (reportedly because they failed to file yearly accounting statements), the foundation reopened in 2006. Its Web site lists its mission as “trying to improve the condition of all mankind.” A Chronicle of Philanthropy article also lists the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation as charities that he supported.
Jackson’s philanthropy during his lifetime begs the question of whether or not his will leaves money to charities that he supported in his lifetime. According to a Wall Street Journal article, Jackson’s most current will divides his assets (estimated to be around $200 million) among his mother, children and one or more charities. We will all have to wait and see which charities these are.