Whitney Houston Was In Debt At Time Of Death, Owes Sony Millions

Becky Bain | March 1, 2012 3:55 pm

Whitney Houston’s back catalog is selling tremendously (and even breaking records) in the wake of her passing — but it will be quite some time before her family receives residuals from all those sales. Houston, who was reportedly broke at the time of her death, is said to owe her record label, Sony Music, tens of millions of dollars.

According to music industry blogger Wayne Rosso, Houston signed what was rumored to be a $100 million deal with Sony for six albums back in 2001. Houston, however, only collected about $40 million. “It’s really an advance against sales,” he tells The Daily. “They loaned her the money, and her records didn’t sell.”

2002’s Just Whitney sold approximately 3 million units worldwide, while 2009’s I Look To You sold 2.5 million. Compare that to her four previous albums, whose sales ranged from 12 million to 25 million, and you can see why her last two LPs were considered a disappointment.

“She owes Sony at least $20 million,” Rosso said. “She’s going to have to sell 5 million more records before her family sees a dime.”

Despite the success she achieved in the first half of her career, Houston was deep in debt for years. She never wrote her songs or produced her records, and prohibiting her from claiming the profits that come from writing and producing one’s own material. She also didn’t have anyone in her corner keeping an eye on her fortune. “Since her father died, she didn’t have a manager. There was no one thinking of other revenue streams,” Rosso said. “She left millions on the table.”

It’s worth noting that Whitney’s friend and pop peer Michael Jackson faced a similar situation — he was carrying debts of roughly $500 million at the time of his death. But with Cirque Du Soleil shows, posthumously released albums, and who knows how many more endorsement deals on the horizon, there are still opportunities for Jackson’s estate to receive revenue. It’s quite possible that Houston, who was arguably as big a pop star as Jackson at the peak of her career, will be able to continue making money and pay off her debts even while no longer walking the Earth.