New Graceland Operator Worries Fans

This article is making the rounds on all news sites: The pilgrims will still weep at Elvis Presley's grave, and the souvenir shops will still swarm with credit-card waving fans, an occasional black pompadour hardly drawing a glance. But change is in the air: Strangers are in Graceland. Lisa Marie Presley has sold the business side of her father's estate and turned over his famous, white-columned house to CKX Inc., an entertainment company that also owns the "American Idol" TV show. Now, some of fans who flock to Memphis each year to commemorate Presley's death on Aug. 16, 1977, are worried their annual homecoming won't be quite so homey. "They call themselves a company now," said Jean Donovan, a fan from Derry, N.H. Of course, Elvis Presley Enterprises was already a company. Forbes listed Presley as the world's top earning dead entertainer last year. Graceland managers say the Elvis business, which brings in $40 million a year, is poised to grow even more. CKX says it's looking into "Elvis-related attractions" in places like Las Vegas, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. No details have been announced. "Elvis sells all over the world, and that's where the real opportunity for growth lies for us, to take more of Elvis and Graceland out to the world," said Jack Soden, chief executive of Elvis Presley Enterprises, now a subsidiary of New York-based CKX. Soden oversaw Graceland's opening in 1982, and he's staying on the job. But the Elvis faithful are ever-watchful for hints of change at Graceland, where Presley is buried in a small garden. "I know a lot of the older fans are in an uproar," said Kathie Bryson, a fan from St. Louis. "But then, anything that changes down there puts them in an uproar." Elvis won't be the only American idol in the stables of CKX, a company founded by Robert F.X. Sillerman, an investor who specializes in media and entertainment. A month after the Elvis deal, CKX acquired 19 Entertainment, the British company that produces the TV show "American Idol" and its British predecessor, "Pop Idol." CKX also has an agreement to buy MBST, a Hollywood talent-management company, and expects to make other acquisitions. CKX says its strategy is to buy companies that control "established entertainment content" - which could include music, TV, films and video games - and then to enhance the value of those companies. Sillerman was also a leading founder of SFX Entertainment, a group of sports promotion and live concert properties that sold to Clear Channel Communications for more than $4 billion five years ago. Bishop Cheen, an entertainment analyst for Wachovia Securities, said Sillerman will likely focus on his control of the rights to Presley's name and leave the day-to-day operations of Graceland alone. "He's not known for sacking and burning and pillaging," Cheen said. "He is known for adding value and taking profits." The company went public earlier this year by buying an inactive public company, Sports Entertainment Enterprises Inc. Sillerman changed the name to CKX - for "Content is King," with a final "X" as a signature of his businesses - and simultaneously bought the Presley business in February for about $100 million in cash and stock. The company raised $235 million in an $11-per-share stock offering in June. All but about $50 million went to pay off debts, including the cost of the Elvis business. Shares have been trading recently between $13 and $14 per share. Lisa Marie Presley got $50 million at the sale, stock in CKX and kept a 15 percent interest in Elvis Presley Enterprises, along with title to Graceland and her father's personal possessions. Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie's mother and Presley's ex-wife, got $6.5 million and a 10-year consulting contract with CKX at $560,000 a year. She is also on the company's board of directors. When Presley died at age 42 of prescription drug abuse and heart disease, his finances were in sad shape. But led by Priscilla Presley, the estate formed Elvis Presley Enterprises, opened Graceland to the public and began a campaign to solidify the legal rights to make money on Elvis' name and image. Now it's CKX's job to keep that going. Soden said he doesn't expect CKX to make major adjustments in how Graceland and its complex of souvenir shops and museums are run. "They said when we were getting to know them, 'You know, we're not out trying to buy problems. We don't want to buy companies that we have to fix,'" Soden said. For the fans, there's little concern that Elvis' light will dim. They worry instead about access to Graceland and whether an expanding marketplace will show Presley the reverence they believe he deserves. "We're all just waiting to see what changes, if any, will be made," said Jeanne Kalweit of The Elvis Presley TCB Fan Club of Chicago. Cheen understands how seriously the Kingdom takes all of this. "(Sillerman) is a New Yorker and an outsider, so he's got to be under suspicion," he said. "But he's a businessman, you know, not General Sherman."
Source: Google / Updated: Aug 6, 2005 
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buyep01 (profilecontact) wrote on Aug 14, 2005report abuse
I think some fans get confused lisa marie still owns graceland and most of her fathers personal items. If Mr. Sillerman is any kind of business man he is not going to touch the way Graceland operates, it gets 600,000 visitors every year which is more than any home other than the white house. I think it is a good thing because I think you will if any thing see more buildings and High-tech things sucas a Hologram Elvis an interactive museum. There will still be Elvis week and all of the extra's added will of course increase cost I am 28 and been to Graceland 6 times (never during his birthday or death I regret) I am a die hard fanatic and even I admit it is getting kinda of routine there were a couple changes some good they opened up a little more things to see. I hate those headsets they have used to start saving money, in my opinion it was a lot more personal when they actually had tour guides there that were fans and explined it with enthusiasm. You can bet there will be a lot more to do and see not over night but gradually. I also think Mr. sillerman knows how Fans feel about Elvis, he didnt get to be a billionaire by being a dummy so I am glad about the change I do agree the mansion should never be sold. I just wish he would buy BMG so maybe we can get some new material. I look forward to the things that are coming in the future, There are so many things in the unknown location of the secret Archives buildings that can be brought out. So to make it final He knows how loyal Elvis fans are he would never change that (I dont know him so I am guessing) not that he loves elvis and all the fans so much (again he may I dont know) but he knows that would cut a lot of money out. Mr. Sillerman also knows that fan loyalty createspeople such as my self that will buy anything Elvis So any changes will be better, personaly I dont mind spending an extra $5 or $10 to see a lott of new Elvis things in a unique way. But we will know soon after Elvis week finishes this year or the following one by the feedback.
dirklandwehr (profilecontact) wrote on Aug 6, 2005report abuse
I don't know how someone can be afraid because Mr. Sillerman tries to make a fortune out of the king's fame. Let's remember the (good) old Colonel. He would have taken the king's jumpsuits and whatever is available on a world tour, sell ringtones of the 600 most popular elvis tunes to the fans and continue with Elvis - The Concert up to the moment, the last musican that traveled with the king has died (and continue even than with some other musicans that could have traveled with Elvis if they had been born). It's not bad to sell a good entertainer. There is a lot more crab available from much less talented people. And by the way: No one is forced to buy the things or to visit Graceland, that has never been displayed the way it looked when the king really lived there. Maybe this would be a good business idea: To redecorate Graceland the way it was in 1977. I'll phone Mr. Sillerman about that! Maybe I could make some money out of it myself...

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