MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Lisa Marie Presley is keeping Graceland but selling the bulk of the Elvis estate, including rights to her father’s name and image, in a deal worth approximately $100 million.
Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. announced an agreement Thursday to sell 85 percent of its assets to businessman Robert F.X. Sillerman, founder of music and sports promoter SFX Entertainment.
The Presley estate brought in almost $45 million last year. Sillerman said more aggressive marketing, supported by capital raised through a new publicly traded company, can make Elvis an even bigger earner.
Presley occupies a unique place in American pop culture, and “I don’t think there’s much likelihood his influence is going to wane anytime in my lifetime,” Sillerman said by telephone from New York, where he runs the Sillerman Companies.
As Presley’s only child, Lisa Marie is the sole heir to the estate, most of which is now to become part of a publicly traded company that will be called CKX Inc.
The agreement will pay her $53 million in cash and absolve her of $25 million in debts owed by the estate. She also is to get shares in the new company expected to be worth more than $20 million.
Lisa Marie will retain possession of her father’s home, its more than 13 acres of land and many of her father’s “personal effects,” an announcement on the agreement said.
“For the past few years, I’ve been looking for someone to join forces with to expand the many facets of (Elvis Presley Enterprises), to take it to new levels internationally and to make it an even greater force in the entertainment industry,” Ms. Presley, also a singer, said in a statement.
Tours of Graceland, which gets 650,000 visitors a year, will continue unchanged. The throngs of fans drawn to Memphis each August on the anniversary of Presley’s 1977 death will notice little different, Sillerman said.
Although Elvis already ranks No. 1 on the Forbes magazine list of top-earning dead celebrities, Sillerman said new markets and business opportunities may be available, including abroad.
“Does it make sense to invest in Elvis Presley enterprises in Japan? Does it make sense in Germany? Are there things that can be done in other jurisdictions in the United States?” he said. “The answer to some of the questions is obviously yes, we just don’t know which ones.”
Sillerman said the staff at Graceland will remain in place.
Elvis Presley Enterprises was created in 1980 by Priscilla Presley, the singer’s ex-wife and mother of Lisa Marie, who was still a child then. She is to remain as a consultant to the new owners.
Sillerman founded SFX Entertainment in 1977 and ran the company until it was bought by Clear Channel Communications in 2000. He said he expected the sale to wrap up within two months, pending standard regulatory approval.