Trader Talk

The business of Frank Sinatra

Sinatra at 100: Merchandising Ol' Blue Eyes

Frank Sinatra's favorite toast was, "May you live to be 100, and may the last voice you hear be mine."

He didn't make it to 100, but the business of Frank Sinatra is still going strong.

Seventeen years after his death, that voice can still be heard in restaurants, bars, airports and other public spaces all over the world.

And why shouldn't business be good, with a legacy like this: 1,400 recordings, 31 gold, nine platinum, three double-platinum and one triple-platinum album. And he appeared in 60 films!

And the business keeps expanding.

Frank Sinatra in 1965
CBS Photo Archive | Getty Images

Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, on Dec. 12, 1915. For the centennial, all sorts of new and repackaged products have been rolling out:

1) Music: "Ultimate Sinatra," a 100-song collection spanning his entire career, a four-CD set of radio recordings done from 1935 to 1955, as well as 50th anniversary editions of three 1965 classics: "Sinatra: A Man and His Music," "September of My Years," and 'Sinatra '65," on 180-gram vinyl.

2) Books: An official centennial book, "Sinatra 100" by his daughter Nancy, a massive coffee-table book, "Sinatra: The Photographs" by last wife, Barbara Sinatra, and the second half of James Kaplan's monumental biography of Sinatra, "Sinatra: The Chairman."

3) Box sets: A DVD box set, "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All," done with the cooperation of the family, centered around his legendary 1971 "Retirement Concert" in Los Angeles.

4) TV specials: A CBS television special with Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga and others, which aired last Sunday night, along with dozens of tribute concerts around the country.

5) Exhibitions: The Grammy Museum's "Sinatra: An American Icon," which just concluded a run at New York City's Lincoln Center and is now on the road.

6) Products: A new whiskey, Sinatra Select, courtesy of his favorite brand, Jack Daniels, and a Frank Sinatra Limited Edition watch from Raymond Weil.

7) An app: Yes, there's an app — Frank Sinatra 100, which allows Sinatraphiles to listen to concerts, and slice and dice his musical history any number of ways.

All this amounts to a big business, but how much is not clear. Sinatra did not make Forbes writer Zack O'Malley Greenburg's list of "The 13 Top-Earning Dead Celebrities of 2015" (#1: Michael Jackson at $115 million and #2: Elvis Presley at $55 million) but he was cited, along with Bruce Lee, George Harrison, and others, as "closest to making the cut."

The truth is, we don't know the total sales Sinatra generates because the business that manages the Sinatra empire is private and doesn't publish sales figures.

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In 2007, Sinatra's children (Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina) and the family's attorney, along with Warner Music Group, founded Frank Sinatra Enterprises to manage the Sinatra business, including use of his name, license rights, and his recordings for Reprise, the company he founded in the 1960s. In 2013, a deal was made with Universal Music Group (UMG) to combine those recordings with those he did with Capital Records from the 1950s under a new UMG imprint called Signature Sinatra.

I spoke with Tina Sinatra about managing her father's far-flung business. She declined to provide any numbers on Frank Sinatra Enterprises, but added "we do well and we are profitable, but we don't just do it for the money." She also added that her father gets more than a million streams a week from various music services.

Also unknown is the value of the Sinatra estate. The bulk of Sinatra's assets were placed in a trust prior to his death for the benefit of his children and grandchildren. The contents of that trust have never been made public.

One site,, estimates Sinatra's net worth at $100 million, but there are no sources behind that estimate.

Regardless: Over his 55-year career, Sinatra sold an estimated 150 million albums worldwide, and on his centennial, he's poised to keep selling a lot more.