The Man Who Owns Elvis

Carousel - French pilot Edmond Salis flies a replica of the original Bleriot XI, ending his flight after crossing the English Channel, Saturday July 25, 2009. The flight was part of centenary celebrations to mark the first flight across the English Channel, in 1909 by Louis Bleriot, when he flew from Calais to Dover in England, making the original of this plane famous. (AP Photo/Thibault Vandermersch) AP Photo/Thibault Vandermersch

Elvis Presley was the king — rock's first icon. A hip-swiveling heartthrob with more hit records than anyone in history. Thirty years after his death, Elvis is still idolized. So what is that name worth now?

To Bob Sillerman, who bought the king's name and likeness, it was worth $114 million. That's what his company, CKX, paid for Elvis Presley enterprises two years ago.

Elvis' music was not part of the deal. he sold most of his hits back to his label before his death. but the family sold 85 percent of everything else and his ex-wife Priscilla Presley says it wasn't an easy decision.

"Absolutely. I mean I'm not gonna lie. It's pretty frightening when, you know, you've been a private company for all these years," she told Sunday Morning correspondent Anthony Mason. "You know and you're the boss."

But Priscilla, the mother of his only child, Lisa Marie, says the family business needed an investor to expand. And Sillerman was just the man to do it.

"He just got it," she said. "You know there is no other company like his company."

His company also owns the "American Idol' franchise, which Sillerman bought for $175 million. Then last year he added "the greatest of all time" to his roster of icons, buying rights to Muhammad Ali's name for another $50 million.

A Bronx born billionaire, Sillerman made his fortune in radio and the concert promotion business. Now he sees Elvis as an under developed asset. On his corporate jet, Mason flew with him to Memphis to tour Graceland, the 13 acre estate where Elvis lived with Priscilla and Lisa Marie. Sillerman said he doesn't feel like he owns Graceland

"It's still their home," he said. "I don't think you can own something that's as big as Elvis Presley. I think I feel a sense of stewardship. But not ownership."

Each year, 600,000 people file through Graceland. Sillerman believes he can double that number

"So many people want to come to Graceland because they want to celebrate his life," Sillerman said. "You know 40 percent of our visitors are unaccompanied kids under the age of 35. It tells you that it does get passed down."

He wants to move the visitor center which sits on the other side of Elvis Presley boulevard and put it next to Graceland. The heartbreak hotel will be torn down to make way for two bigger hotels. In the entire complex that takes up 25 acres will grow to more than 100 acres.

At the same time Sillerman is working with Cirque du Soleil to create a permanent Elvis show for Las Vegas and traveling shows that could tour the world.

"China is so big it could probably support a touring show forever," Sillerman said.

"We're all thrilled about it. We think it's a whole other take on Elvis," Priscilla Presley said. "I think he would absolutely love it."

"If the Cirque du Soleil numbers hold true for Elvis, as they have for every one of their other shows, we're in a position to be making 100 million dollars a year in a few years," Sillerman said. "You know, that's a no-brainer."

Starting with a single small town radio station. Now Sillerman's the man who bought "American Idol," Ali and Elvis.

"Look at what Bobby Sillerman from the Bronx has — God Bless America," Sillerman said.
  • Caitlin Johnson

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