Who Inherited John Lennon's Fortune After He Died?

John Lennon and Paul McCartney first performed together in 1957, three years before The Beatles were officially formed. By 1963, the group had been signed with a record label, had their first British hit with "Please Please Me" and were on their way to stardom. Beatlemania reached the United States just a year later and the group was starting to earn their first millions (via Britannica). By 1966, John Lennon was already worth $3.3 million, the equivalent to $24.8 million in today's money. At the time, Paul McCartney was worth about the same, though he would eventually become the richest Beatle (as reported by Inside Hook).

By the time The Beatles broke up, Lennon was already working on his own material. In 1970, he released a debut solo album, "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band," in collaboration with Yoko Ono. A year later, he would release the highly successful "Imagine" album, which generated multi-million sales and helped his fortune grow (via Biography).

Even after his death, John Lennon's estate has continued to earn money through product and music licensing. The most recent deals include a 2009 "Beatles Rock Band" music video game that generated millions in sales and a $250,000 one-time payment to use a Lennon-McCartney song in a Mad Men episode (per CNBC).

John Lennon's net worth was huge by the time he died

By the time he was murdered in 1980, John Lennon was worth about $200 million and was the second-richest Beatle. Paul McCartney's fortune was about $400 million at the time, while Ringo and George Harrison had accumulated about half or less Lennon's net worth. Adjusted for inflation, Lennon's $200 million would be worth over $600 million (about $800 million) today (via Celebrity Net Worth).

The one thing to keep in mind about Lennon's fortune is that it never stopped growing. Even after his death, his estate would still see millions and millions of dollars come in from royalties, licensing fees, and more. Today, The Beatles hold the top spot as the best-selling artists of all time with over 600 million records sold. Plus, John Lennon sold around 70 million solo albums after The Beatles broke up (per CheatSheet). In addition, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote most of the songs the band performed, so their estates also receive additional royalties as the songwriters.

John Lennon also owned several luxury properties with his wife Yoko Ono. His famous apartment at the Dakota building on Central Park West – where he was shot and where Yoko still maintains a residence today – has never been for sale, but apartments in the building routinely sell for up to $24 million (via CNBC).

Who did not get John Lennon's fortune

John Lennon's older son, Julian, was born during his marriage to Cynthia Powell. Julian was 17 years old when Lennon was killed and their relationship had been strained for quite some time. Although father and son had a good relationship when their parents were married, John Lennon distanced himself from Julian once he became involved with Yoko Ono. After that, Julian had little contact with his father, explaining that "Maybe 10 years passed during which my dad and I barely spoke. I was very angry about how he left the family." Although they reconnected in the mid-1970s, they continued to have a difficult relationship (as reported by Cosmic Magazine).

Given their strained relationship, it's perhaps no huge surprise that Julian was left out of the will. The original divorce settlement had earmarked £2,400 a year in maintenance for Julian, as well as a £50,000 trust fund he could only cash in once he turned 25 (per Express).

For years, Julian accepted this, claiming it wasn't fair but he had no intention of fighting. Eventually, he did pursue a court battle, finally securing a settlement from the estate in 1996. Although rumors said he ended up securing a £20 million settlement, Julian never confirmed this. In interviews given over the years, he's talked about using some of the settlement money to buy some of John Lennon's possessions, including handwritten notes about the song "Hey Jude," which was written about Julian himself (as reported by Cosmic Magazine).

So who got most of Lennon's money?

John Lennon's will left all his possessions to Yoko Ono and the son they shared. The money was actually left in a trust that only Yoko Ono and an accountant had access to, as Sean was only 5 at the time. As Yoko Ono is named as the only executor of the estate, she is also the one who continues to receive and handle any earnings that the estate produces. Just Lennon's image and royalties are estimated to bring in about $12 million a year in additional earnings (as reported via danielleandandy.com).

In 1985, Michael Jackson bought The Beatles' song catalog for $47.5 million, and Yoko Ono's estate would have received a significant part of that as well. She was also left with all of their investments, which included real estate, art, and much more. Among their many properties was a beachfront home in Palm Beach, Florida, which the couple bought just months before Lennon was killed and never visited. After his death, Yoko Ono completed the renovations the couple had planned and eventually sold the home in 1986 for $3.15 million. In 2020, the property changed hands but the new owner paid $36 million for it (per Architectural Digest). According to Money Control, John and Yoko's investments also included $6 million worth of Holstein cows. Yoko Ono's fortune — which includes the earnings from her own career as an artist — was worth $700 million as of 2020, according to Money Inc.