A little more than a year ago, a representative of Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. floated a business proposition to Rick Roberts, the owner of a one-story brick storefront a few steps from Graceland.
The offer reportedly involved buying Robert's Elvis-themed shop Boulevard Souvenirs for about $350,000 and assuming the 13 years remaining on its lease.
Roberts, who developed his independent retail operation at 3706 Elvis Presley Boulevard on land that once was the site of a car repair shop, turned down the request to sell. The store currently is stocked from front to back with trinkets such as old newspapers, T-shirst and mugs, and it grosses about $1 million a year.
But EPER didn't stop there, Roberts' attorney argues in a lawsuit filed earlier this year in US District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The corporation that officially conducts and manages Elvis-related business recently tweaked the licensing agreements it has in place with merchandise vendors. CKX In.c and Robert FX Sillerman, which acquired an 85 percent ownership of Elvis Presley Enterprises in 2005, were not named in the lawsuit.
A change that was inserted now prohibits vendors from selling their Elvis ware to unauthorised retailers within a 5-maile radius of Graceland.
"Well, guess who's within a 5-mile radius of Graceland?" said Randy Songstad, the attorney representing Boulevard Souvenirs. "So the vendors said, 'Hey, you you can't do that, they do a lot of money with us' and (EPE) said, 'If you sell to them, we'll take your license.' So the vendors called us up one by one, and said, 'It's killing us, but we can't sell to you.'"
Earlier this month, one of the federal claims filed on behalf of Boulevard Souvenirs - a claim that EPE and vice president of internation licensing Carol Butler were conspiring to eliminate all independently owned retail competitors near Graceland - was dismissed.
Why the conspiracy claim wasn't successful is that under the Sherman Antritrust Act of 1890, a conspiracy involving a busines and an employee can't technically be viewed as a conspiracy. A business, in other words, can't conspire against itself.
EPE did not respond to requests for an interview and stated in a previous e-mail response that no comment would be forthcoming.
... Boulevard Souvenirs is preparing its next move in the court action over what EPE sees as an assertion of more control over its signature product line and what the small store sees as a by EPE to shut it out of the marketplace inappropriately. ...