Will Elvis’s iconic home Graceland have to be sold to pay off Lisa Marie’s debts?

Two years after the tragic death of her husband, Priscilla Presley was summoned to the office of Elvis’s accountant in downtown Memphis and warned that, without drastic action, the vast fortune he had left their only child would soon be lost along with his beloved home, Graceland.

The year was 1979. Elvis’s father, Vernon Presley, who had been executor of his son’s will, had just died, forcing Priscilla to pick up the reins and oversee the late singer’s estate until their daughter Lisa-Marie turned 25.

A baptism of fire, no doubt, for a woman who was just 14 when she met Elvis and had never been involved in his business affairs during the six years they were married.

But, determined to rescue her daughter’s birthright, Priscilla set about transforming the family fortunes, turning the Elvis estate into an empire which should have — and easily could have — supported his descendants for generations to come.

The vast $100 million inheritance left to Lisa Marie by her devoted father has all but disappeared

The vast $100 million inheritance left to Lisa Marie by her devoted father has all but disappeared

Lisa Marie with her parents in 1970. Presley found her father dead at the age of nine

Lisa Marie with her parents in 1970. Presley found her father dead at the age of nine

Now, more than 43 years on and a week after Lisa Marie’s sudden death following a heart attack, 77-year-old Priscilla could be forgiven for feeling a terrible sense of deja vu as she comforts her grief-stricken grand-daughters.

For while, tomorrow, she and other family members will be joined by thousands of Presley fans at a memorial being held on Graceland’s front lawn for the 54-year-old musician and actress, it appears that the vast $100 million inheritance left to Lisa Marie by her devoted father has all but disappeared. Much of it, as the Mail has discovered this week, was blown in the final years of Lisa Marie’s tragically short life amid legal battles, foolhardy business decisions, not to mention almost unimaginably profligate spending.

Indeed, one former financial manager claimed she ‘overspent herself into destitution and went broke twice because of her spending’.

One former financial manager claimed she ‘overspent herself into destitution and went broke twice because of her spending’

One former financial manager claimed she ‘overspent herself into destitution and went broke twice because of her spending’

The mother-of-three is believed to have owed more than a $1 million in unpaid tax bills at the time of her death. Legal documents, seen by the Mail, also suggest that she had just $95,266 in cash and $714,775 in stocks, bonds and other assets.

Crucially, as we shall see, she had previously sold off 85 per cent of her stake in ‘Elvis Presley Enterprises’ (EPE) built up for her by Priscilla — including rights to her father’s intellectual property, his image, his likeness and the right to operate Graceland as a tourist attraction.

The decision to relinquish control of the estate which controlled her father’s legacy was taken, in 2005, to get her out of one of the many financial crises which dogged her life. She continued to receive $100,000 a month from her remaining 15 per cent stake, along with a $4,361-a-month salary as an ‘employee’ of Graceland. But those amounts barely covered her outgoings which, she declared in court in 2018, were £92,000 a month — including $23,500 for rent and $1,708 for payments on her car, a Maserati.

Amid the financial mess she has left behind, a once unthinkable question is now being asked.

Will Elvis’s beloved Graceland have be to sold to pay off the mountainous debts his daughter has left behind? Or will Priscilla once again step into the breach, this time to advise her three granddaughters how best to protect their own financial futures, while preserving the Elvis legacy for years to come?

Two years after the tragic death of her husband, Priscilla Presley was summoned to the office of Elvis’s accountant and warned that, without drastic action, the vast fortune he had left their only child would soon be lost along with his beloved home, Graceland

Two years after the tragic death of her husband, Priscilla Presley was summoned to the office of Elvis’s accountant and warned that, without drastic action, the vast fortune he had left their only child would soon be lost along with his beloved home, Graceland

‘Right now there are a lot of unknowns because we don’t know the full extent of Lisa Marie’s creditors,’ says LA attorney Ryan Sellers, whose company Hale and Sellers specialises in estate planning and probate.

‘It’s going to be a process where anybody who is owed money will come forward,’ he adds. ‘Does the estate have enough to cover those debts — or to come to some arrangement about the debts without having to sell a tangible asset?’

The granddaughters are 33-year-old actress Riley, Lisa Marie’s eldest daughter from her first marriage to Danny Keough, as well as 14-year-old twins, Harper and Finley, from her fourth to musician Michael Lockwood. Her only son, Ben Keough, took his own life in July 2020 at the age of 27.

Now motherless, her children will undoubtedly turn to the loving grandmother they know as ‘Nona’ for support and guidance; for Priscilla Beaulieu Presley has, without a doubt, been the calm constant in all of their lives.

She continued to receive $100,000 a month from her remaining 15 per cent stake, along with a $4,361-a-month salary as an ‘employee’ of Graceland

She continued to receive $100,000 a month from her remaining 15 per cent stake, along with a $4,361-a-month salary as an ‘employee’ of Graceland

What she advises them to do in the wake of their mother’s death remains to be seen. Ryan Sellers questions whether, faced with Lisa Marie’s debts, the trio will ultimately decide to kill the proverbial golden goose and sell off the remaining 15 per cent share of EPE they are now set to inherit.

As she comes to terms with her daughter’s premature death, Priscilla could be forgiven for wondering where it all went wrong.

After Elvis died at the tragically young age of 42, the very least the Presley family might have expected was to live happily ever — in financial terms at least.

Some estimates put the life-time earnings of the ‘King’ at a billion dollars. But with more than 50 per cent of his earnings scythed off by his manager, ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, Elvis squandered the remaining cash as fast as he earned it, splashing out on property and flashy cars, buying Cadillacs and other expensive gifts for staff at Graceland and for his friends and relatives.

Some estimates put the life-time earnings of the ‘King’ at a billion dollars

Some estimates put the life-time earnings of the ‘King’ at a billion dollars

As a child, Lisa Marie wanted for nothing in material terms. She had her own pony, a golf buggy to drive around her father’s Memphis estate, even a private jet named after her. Elvis famously once flew her in it to Utah so she could play in the snow for just 20 minutes.

Notoriously hopeless with money, Elvis was worth just $5 million when he died — around $20 million by today’s standards. While his estate was generating around $1 million a year in 1979 when Priscilla took charge, the cost of running Graceland was $480,000 a year, most of it going on taxes, insurance and round-the-clock security for Elvis’s grave.

Most disastrously of all, the royalties from most of Presley’s recordings were not even going to his estate. In 1973, in a bid to clear debts that both he and Elvis had accumulated, Parker had sold the singer’s entire back catalogue up to that point to music giant RCA.

Both he and Elvis believed that they could rely, instead, on his income from touring — and future hits. Neither of them could have foreseen that within four years, the ‘King’ would be dead.

As a child, Lisa Marie wanted for nothing in material terms. She had her own pony, a golf buggy to drive around her father’s Memphis estate, even a private jet named after her

As a child, Lisa Marie wanted for nothing in material terms. She had her own pony, a golf buggy to drive around her father’s Memphis estate, even a private jet named after her

When Priscilla took the helm in 1979, the Elvis estate was in dire straits, with an outstanding tax bill of £10 million.

Unable to access the rights to the hits her late ex-husband had sold off, she formed Elvis Presley Enterprises to exploit rights to his image with a global licensing programme, merchandising and TV and video projects along with royalties from songs recorded after the RCA deal.

At the heart of her business plan, of course, was Graceland, the eight-bedroom colonial-style home where Elvis lived and died in Memphis, which opened to the public in 1982 and was soon attracting 700,000 visitors a year.

Thanks to Priscilla’s hard work and stewardship, by the end of the 1980s Graceland was bringing in £15 million a year and, by the time Lisa Marie finally came into her father’s fortune in 1993, the estate was worth $100 million.

Lisa Marie’s private life was already turbulent, with stints in rehab for alcohol and drug dependency. And it didn’t take long for her to undo her mother’s hard work.

When she took over a new trust set up to run the Elvis empire, she was already a mother-of-two — to Riley and Benjamin. A year later, in 1994, she divorced her first husband, Danny Keough, and, 20 days later, married troubled pop star Michael Jackson. In 2002 she married, and separated from, actor Nicholas Cage.

A year later, in 2003, she appointed high-powered business manager Barry Siegel. It was Siegel who oversaw the 2005 deal in which Lisa Marie sold 85 per cent of her trust’s stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) for $100 million to entertainment company CKX, plus $25 million of stock in CKX, thereby losing control of the Elvis name, image and likeness. She held on to Graceland and its 13.8 acres, her father’s personal possessions and 15 per cent of EPE.

Just two days before her death, a frail-looking Lisa Marie sat side-by-side with Priscilla at the Golden Globes and watched 31-year-old Austin Butler win Best Actor for his performance as Elvis

Just two days before her death, a frail-looking Lisa Marie sat side-by-side with Priscilla at the Golden Globes and watched 31-year-old Austin Butler win Best Actor for his performance as Elvis

After tax, Lisa Marie walked away with around $40 m from the deal, plus the $25 m of stock. But it didn’t take her long to burn her way through that still sizeable sum.

Her finances took a further hit with the 2010 purchase of Coes Hall, a vast 15th-century estate near Rotherfield in East Sussex, purchased for £5.7 million and financed with a loan of £4.3 million from Barclays Bank which was secured against Lisa Marie’s remaining 15 per cent stake in EPE.

She had hoped that the move to England soon after the birth of her twin daughters, would help her turn over a new leaf as she battled opioid addiction. But when her fourth marriage, to musician Michael Lockwood, broke down in 2016, Coes Hall was put on the market.

It finally sold, at a loss, for £3.25 million in 2020, meaning she was still paying off the loan on the property when she died.

In 2018, Lisa Marie sued Siegel and his company, accusing them of squandering her $100 m inheritance and leaving her with only $14,000 in cash — a sum overshadowed by a $500,000 credit card bill, unpaid taxes and other debts. Siegel hit back claiming she had ‘spent her way into destitution’. Documents show she spent $39million in just four years from 2005 to 2009.

At the time of the court action, Siegel released a statement: ‘It’s clear Lisa Marie is going through a difficult time in her life and looking to blame others instead of taking responsibility for her actions.’

As the case dragged on, it was reported that Priscilla was forced to sell her Los Angeles mansion to help her daughter with her mounting debts.

Elvis famously once flew her in it to Utah so she could play in the snow for just 20 minutes

By the end of the 1980s Graceland was bringing in £15 million a year and, by the time Lisa Marie finally came into her father’s fortune in 1993

As a child, Lisa Marie wanted for nothing in material terms. She had her own pony, a golf buggy to drive around her father’s Memphis estate, even a private jet named after her

The actress ex-wife of one of the most famous men on the planet had already returned to work in her 70s, taking to the stage in the UK in pantomimes in Manchester and Milton Keynes as well as Wimbledon in South-West London. Last year, it was announced that in 2023 she would return to the UK for a series of ‘Elvis And Me’ evenings.

Last week, Siegel claimed that the case against him had been ‘resolved confidentially, more than a year ago’. But Lisa Marie had also been battling her last husband, Michael Lockwood. The case remained unsettled when Lisa Marie died.

According to Joel Weinshanker, who manages Graceland through EPE, her daughters will now inherit the estate with Riley, as the eldest, in control. What will remain of that trust once Lisa Marie’s creditors come calling remains to be seen.

One glimmer of hope is the continuing success of Baz Luhrmann’s award-winning biopic, Elvis, which has ignited a passion for the singer among a new generation of fans.

Just two days before her death, a frail-looking Lisa Marie sat side-by-side with Priscilla at the Golden Globes and watched 31-year-old Austin Butler win Best Actor for his performance as Elvis, the man whose legacy has overshadowed both their lives.

But for his granddaughters, the success of the film — which has already grossed $287 million at the box office — might just be the lifeline they need if they want to hold on to the home their grandfather — and their mother — so loved.

In the months ahead they could do worse than to listen to their beloved Nona, who has seen up close what the Presley curse can do and knows better than anyone how to survive it.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-11659537/Will-Elviss-iconic-home-Graceland-sold-pay-Lisa-Maries-debts.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Will Elvis’s iconic home Graceland have to be sold to pay off Lisa Marie’s debts?

Emma Colton

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