CKx Inc., the company that controls Elvis Presley Enterprises and Graceland, says it is in discussions regarding a sale of the company. In a statement released early this morning, CKx said it would not elaborate on the terms of the “possible transaction.”
CKx owns and develops entertainment content, and its properties include the rights to the image and likeness of Elvis Presley, Graceland operations, and the rights to the name, image and likeness of Muhammad Ali , and the American Idol series in the U.S.
The company's statement followed a report Friday by the Wall Street Journal, which said the company was close to selling itself to the private equity firm, One Equity Partners, which offered $6 a share. CNBC also reported this morning that the company is being acquired by one of its equity partners.
Graceland is still a moneymaker and tourist magnet, but the iconic home's attendance and revenues were virtually flat last year. The Elvis Presley home and related facilities turned an operating profit of nearly $4.9 million, up about 21 percent from 2008, corporate owners said in an annual report filed Tuesday.
But from all indications, 2009 was pretty much a holding pattern as owners worked through a much-ballyhooed redevelopment plan. Attendance was up 1.2 percent from recession-battered levels in 2008, while revenues were down 1.6 percent.
Referring to a $250 million plan that could include new hotels, visitors center, attractions and shops, the corporation, CKx Inc., "remains committed to the Graceland redevelopment and will continue to pursue opportunities on its own or with third parties," the report said.
CEO Robert F.X. Sillerman, who paid $100 million for an 85 percent stake in the Presley estate in 2004, unveiled ambitious plans in 2007. Other CKx holdings include TV shows "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance," and attractions associated with Muhammad Ali.
Graceland redevelopment planning took a hit last March when the company ended an agreement with a spinoff corporation, FX Real Estate & Entertainment, that was to have developed hotels here and in Las Vegas.
Preliminary design work was scrapped "due to current economic conditions and a lack of certainty as to exact scope, cost, financing plan and timing of this project," the report added.
Company spokesman Ed Tagliaferri said Tuesday, "As Mr. Sillerman has previously indicated, we were working on coming up with a new and exciting design. We continue to move full steam ahead on that." Memphis government and tourism officials said they believe the project is on track.
"I'm confident it is going to happen," Mayor A C Wharton said. "Mr. Sillerman has assured us of his commitment. We are in the final stages of the planning process. It's a real game-changer. It will be one of the most significant developments we've seen in a long time."
City Council chairman Harold Collins said, "As far as being on schedule, I'm not sure they ever said they had a schedule. They have brought in their design people to look at the area. They have not fully decided when they are going to release that or get the design people's finished product."
Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau president Kevin Kane said, "What I'm hearing is they're still very committed to the Memphis project. A delay, if there was one, was because of the economy and other things they were working on in Vegas."
Other attractions claim higher attendance, but Kane said nothing equals the Presley home for out-of-region visitors. "It's the one sure-fire amenity that Memphis obviously is recognized and famous for all over the world," he said. The redevelopment "will enhance not only the visitor's experience to Graceland, but it will probably be a vehicle that will increase the number of visitors to Graceland," he added.
*30th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death on Aug. 16, 1977