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November 21, 2013

Elvis Presley Enterprises changes hands

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In a move being touted as a "Good Luck Charm" for the multimillion-dollar Elvis industry, new owners of the late Memphis entertainer's likeness promise a promotional extravaganza for the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

Under terms of a deal announced Tuesday, Lisa Marie Presley will maintain 100 percent ownership of Graceland, Elvis Presley's home here, while Authentic Brands Group LLC controls operations at the popular Memphis landmark and oversees branding and marketing of the singer.

Presley died in 1977 but remains a business powerhouse. As one of the most recognized American icons in the world, his images generate millions of dollars in revenue and positions Graceland, his home in the Whitehaven area on Memphis' south side, as one of the leading tourist destinations in Tennessee.

Overseeing the Elvis brand will be ABG, a New York-based intellectual property corporation whose brands include Marilyn Monroe, apparel maker Hart Schaffner Marx, retailer Juicy Couture and musician Prince.

ABG acquired Elvis Presley Intellectual Property Assets from CORE Media Group. CORE had held an 85 percent interest in Elvis Presley Enterprises since 2005 with Lisa Marie Presley owning the remaining 15 percent.

''We look forward to working with our new partners whose resources and creativity will prove invaluable, allowing us to take Elvis to new heights," said Jack Soden, chief executive officer of Elvis Presley Enterprises. "Great days are ahead for Elvis fans and visitors to Graceland as we continue to grow the legacy of the King of Rock 'n' Roll around the world."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but earlier this year online reports surfaced that CORE was looking to refocus its business. Besides spinning off EPE, the Los Angeles firm separately this week sold its stake in Muhammad Ali Enterprises for $200 million. CORE now counts entertainment programming as its primary focus, including television series such as "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance."

In partnership with Lisa Marie Presley and Joel Weinshanker, chairman and founder of National Entertainment Collectibles Association, ABG will own and manage the intellectual property associated with Elvis.

Weinshanker will acquire the rights to the management of Graceland operations -- including tours of the property -- in conjunction with ABG and the Presley family.

For their part, ABG leaders are thrilled with the addition of a proven moneymaker to the portfolio.

On the 2012 Forbes list of top-earning deceased celebrities, Elvis came in third with $55 million. Top earner Elizabeth Taylor generated $210 million, primarily as a result of last year's auction of her art and jewelry by Christie's. Michael Jackson, who was once married to Lisa Marie Presley, was second on the list with $145 million.

''Elvis created a revolution, culturally and musically and socially and we want to expand that for an even greater global audience through a multichannel experience," said ABG president Nick Woodhouse in a phone interview from his New York office. "What Elvis did was mind-boggling and his legacy has endured, which is something we're committed to promoting for future generations."

Woodhouse declined to reveal specific plans for marketing the King, but he did acknowledge that the company would follow a similar strategy to the one built around Marilyn Monroe.

That marketing has included a robust presence on social media channels and Monroe-influenced clothing and merchandise.

As part of the new deal, ABG secures global rights to photographic images, including artwork, album covers and movie posters; video and audio assets such as television appearances and music specials; Elvis' name and likeness in myriad forms; and control of such as Elvis-themed events as Elvis Week.

But the sale does not include Graceland, which recently earned the No. 1 spot on USA Today's "Best Iconic American Attractions" list and draws more than a half-million visitors every year.

In a prepared statement, Lisa Marie said, "While I will continue to own Graceland and the original artifacts, we are looking forward to working with our new partners to continue the growth and expansion we have been working towards. The licensing and merchandising aspect of this business is not to be confused with the fact that the property will always remain with me and my family. However, this is a great partnership for our family and Elvis fans worldwide."

(Contact James Dowd, a reporter for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, at Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,


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