How COVID crippled the King: Elvis Presley’s Graceland saw its bonds DEFAULT after pandemic as it failed to pay off $20M of $104M issued for Memphis estate’s expansion – sparking fight between the house and the state
Elvis’ Memphis estate was crippled after the pandemic as it defaulted on a huge bonds payment – sparking a bitter fight between the house and the state.
Graceland failed to pay off $20million of $104million issued by the economic development agency (EDGE) for a mass expansion project in 2017.
It comes as the owner Lisa Marie Presley died after suffering a cardiac arrest yesterday aged 54, sparking questions over who will get the mansion.
She was spotted at the sprawling site only on Sunday as she gave a speech on what would have been her father’s 88th birthday.
The estate’s bosses slammed officials and claimed it could not make the payments due to a cash crisis caused by a lack of visitors during the pandemic.
But the economic development agency snapped back that the estate was at fault – not the city, agency, county or state – and warned the money had to be paid back.
The fallout sparked a huge fight between them that appeared to have been resolved when a law was passed in the Tennessee General Assembly to ensure future payments are made.
Elvis’ home had $104millon issued for the expansion of the estate in Memphis, but the bonds defaulted
Lisa Marie Presley was rushed to hospital hours after celebrating her father at the Golden Globes with Austin Butler, who brought him back to life on the big screen
The house was inherited by Lisa on her 25th birthday, as stipulated in Elvis’ will, and it is unclear who it will go to now.
Lisa Marie also retained a 15 percent stake in EPE, after selling off the majority share in 2005 – but remained a trustee of the estate until her death along with her mother, Priscilla.
Joel Weinshanker, the managing partner of Elvis Presley Enterprises, claims that it is the state’s fault for defaulting – something which EDGE denies.
EPE, which manages licensing and branding rights to Elvis Presley’s image and other products and ventures, is now owned by the Authentic Brands Group.
The ongoing battle is expected to get even more complicated after the death of Elvis’ only child, Lisa Marie Presley on Thursday.
The lack of money coming through the estate was attributed to a lack of tourism during the Covid-19 pandemic, described as the ‘largest crisis’ to hit the leisure and hospitality industry in history by the Tennessee Department of Tourist development.
Lisa Marie Presley told devoted fans at Graceland, her father’s Memphis estate, that she hardly left her home and they were the ‘only people who can bring me out of the house’ just days before her sudden death
EPE, which manages licensing and branding rights to Elvis Presley’s image and other products and ventures, is now owned by the Authentic Brands Group
Winshanker, who has been a part of EPE for more than a decade, said in July last year that the company ‘did not default’ – adding ‘the state agency defaulted’.
However a spokeswoman for EDGE countered at the time that they serve as a ‘conduit,’ adding: ‘The Graceland bonds must be repaid from taxes’ that are all generated at Graceland.
‘Neither EDGE, the City, the County, the State nor any taxpayer is liable … for the repayment.
‘The bondholders must wait for sufficient tax revenues to be generated from Graceland.’
In 2017 Graceland Project bonds were issued by EDGE for $104.3 million, some of which were unrated or identified as high risk.
Different revenue streams from Graceland, tied to a slew of new taxes — sales, tourist and property — were each pledged to different series of the bonds.
Graceland remained with Lisa Marie, who inherited the estate on her 25th birthday, as stipulated in Elvis’ will, and it is unclear who it will go to now
Speaking when Graceland reopened after the pandemic, Weinshanker said: ‘We’re going to lose money for the foreseeable future but we need to show the path forward
Lisa Marie also retained a 15 percent stake in EPE, after selling off the majority share in 2005 – but remained a trustee of the estate until her death along with her mother, Priscilla
In 2017 Graceland Project bonds were issued by EDGE for $104.3 million, some of which were unrated or identified as high risk
Of those, around $20million worth of them were in default last year after the pandemic, and it is not clear if the estate or state has recouped any of the money.
Speaking when Graceland reopened after the pandemic, Weinshanker said: ‘We’re going to lose money for the foreseeable future but we need to show the path forward.
‘We’ve been working closely with the county and the state, Governor Lee in Tennessee has been really amazing at trying to see what we can do safety and what’s possible.’
The iconic tourist venue’s non-payment of the municipal bonds that helped pay for the expansion also sparked a change in the law from the Tennessee General Assembly.
Signed by Gov Lee in May last year, is geared towards making sure there are taxes generated at Graceland to pay down the debt.
Around $20million worth of them were in default last year after the pandemic, and it is not clear if the estate or state has recouped any of the money
The iconic tourist venue’s non-payment of the municipal bonds that helped pay for the expansion also sparked a change in the law from the Tennessee General Assembly
It means that they will pay the bonds by generating tax revenue that is over and above what the baseline tax revenue is in Shelby County.
Tha also allows the taxes generated by Graceland’s recovery to be over and above the baseline and creates an increment to repay the bonds.
DailyMail.com has yet to receive a comment on the ongoing situation from the City of Memphis, EPE or EDGE at the time of publication.
All proceeds from the bonds went into a massive expansion which stated in 2015 and eventually added new buildings and 450-room hotel.
An Elvis auto museum and a collection of his sequined jumpsuits and other outfits were also added to the collection – along with other memorabilia and the history of his music.
The cheapest ticket following the reopening is $77, with an ultimate VIP tour costing $190 – allowing fans to access new attractions a private tour, lunch and access to his private plane.
It is unclear if the issues are still ongoing, with EPE hosting an event for Elvis’ 88th birthday – weeks before Lisa Marie died of a heart attack.
Who’s going to get Graceland? Lisa Marie Presley’s 14-year-old twins and Hollywood starlet daughter are expected to split the King’s Memphis mansion – but they won’t see a cent of $100million Elvis left his daughter because she lost it all
Lisa Marie Presley‘s death at the age of 54 leaves the question of who will inherit Graceland, and what remains of the infamous $100million inheritance which is said to have been entirely spent, leaving her in $16million debt by 2016.
Lisa Marie’s finances remain contentious: her fourth husband, Michael Lockwood, lost his 2016 bid in their divorce to undo their prenup, but he reopened the case in 2021, demanding she pay the $4,600-a-month child support that a court ordered.
The case is yet to be settled, and the state of her finances is unclear.
She inherited $100million in 1993, on her 25th birthday, but said that it had almost entirely disappeared thanks to mismanagement and bad investments.
Graceland, however, remained.
Lisa Marie, who grew up in the house, is likely to have passed it down to her three surviving children – actress Riley Keough, 33; and twin 14-year-old girls Harper Vivienne and Finley.
Her son, Benjamin Keough, took his own life in July 2020 following a lengthy battle with drug addiction and depression.
Lisa Marie is pictured in 2021 with her 33-year-old daughter Riley and 14-year-old twin daughters Harper Vivienne Ann and Finley Aaron Love
Riley Keough is pictured with her mother in October 2017
Riley Keough and Lisa Marie Presley with twins Finley and Harper Vivienne
Harper and Finley Vivienne pictured together at the handprint ceremony to honor their grandmother Priscilla in June 2022
Riley, whose latest role is in Amazon Prime series Daisy Jones and the Six, charting the story of a 1970s rock band, said last year while promoting Zola that her brother’s death had hit her hard.
She told The New York Times she endured ‘a year of feeling like I was thrown into the ocean and couldn’t swim’.
She added: ‘The first four or five months, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was totally debilitated. I couldn’t talk for two weeks.’
Even now, Riley finds the tragedy hard to accept.
‘It’s very complicated for our minds to put that somewhere because it’s so outrageous,’ she said.
Lockwood and his daughters Harper Vivienne and Finley at his Santa Barbara wedding to Beauty Beach Lounge hairstylist Stephanie Hobgood in October
Elvis and Priscilla Presley are pictured at Graceland with a baby Lisa Marie
Lisa Marie Presley, 54, died on Thursday after suffering a cardiac arrest
‘If I’m going through a breakup, I know what to do with that and where to file it in my mind, but suicide of your brother? Where do you put that? How does that integrate? It just doesn’t.’
While struggling to come to terms with Benjamin’s death, she became interested in death doulas, and trained as a practicioner – guiding people through the final stages of their lives.
‘That’s really what’s helped me, being able to put myself in a position of service,’ she said. ‘If I can help other people, maybe I can find some way to help myself.’
She said she was supported by her husband, Australian stuntman Ben Smith-Petersen, who she met on the set of Mad Max: Fury Road.
The pair married in February 2015, after traveling to Nepal to spend time building houses in the Himalayas.
The look of love: Riley and and Ben Smith-Petersen met in 2012 on the desert set of Mad Max: Fury Road, for which he won a SAG Award for best stunt ensemble
Riley and her husband Ben (left) are seen together with Benjamin and his girlfriend Diana in 2018 on a holiday to Tulum, Mexico
Benjamin, 27, died after he shot himself in July 2020
She said her brother’s death increased her sense of spirituality, and made her wish death was not such a taboo.
‘There’s nothing that can prepare you for loss and tragedy and I wish there was,’ she told Vogue.
‘When I lost my brother, I felt so angry that no one talks about death. It’s hidden away and then it happens to you and you’re thrown into an ocean and you can’t swim.
‘So for me, what’s been helpful is trying to help other people who are experiencing similar things. I trained to be a death doula and got my certificate to be a death midwife.
‘I read a lot, meditate and I’m very spiritual. I think it’s rewired my entire existence and also made me thankful for every moment. I have so much more love in my heart than I could ever have imagined.
‘But, it is painful and a lot of work. It’s been a tragic year for so many people. There’s been so much suffering. It makes you realize how connected we all are.’
Graceland could be left jointly to Riley and her two teenage sisters.
Harper Vivienne and Finley, daughters of musician Michael Lockwood, frequently appeared with their parents on the red carpet.
At the time of their mother’s death the 14-year-olds were living with her in Calabasas, although they had at times lived with their grandmother Priscilla, throughout their parents’ acrimonious divorce.
In October their father remarried, to celebrity hairdresser Stephanie Hobgood.
The twins were ‘grooms women’.
Lockwood said, following Lisa Marie death, that the girls were with him.
”Michael had been hoping for a speedy and complete recovery because her children needed her. It is very sad it didn’t turn out that way,’ said Joe Yanny, Lockwood’s spokesman.
‘Michael’s world has been turned on its ear. He is with both of his daughters now.’
Lisa Marie has previously spoken of her son’s, left, similarity to her dad Elvis, right, calling their resemblance ‘uncanny’
Lisa Marie (right) and her mother Priscilla (left) were at the Golden Globe Awards on Tuesday night to see Austin Butler (center) who played her father in the movie ‘Elvis’
In July 2020 Benjamin took his own life. At the time, sources revealed he’d been ‘struggling’ and that his death, while devastating, was not a ‘huge surprise’ to his mother or other relatives.
It’s unclear how much alcohol or cocaine he had in his system but there were traces of both, according to Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.
The report also describes Benjamin’s history with mental illness.
He had tried to take his life six months earlier, then spent three weeks in rehab four months before he died.
Benjamin had attempted rehab three times before. The autopsy makes reference to his drug abuse and says he also had a history of depression.
On what would have been his 28th birthday in 2020, Lisa Marie posted a poignant tribute. ‘My beautiful beautiful angel,’ the singer-songwriter wrote on Instagram next to a picture of Benjamin as he is about to blow out birthday candles on a cake.
‘I worshipped the ground you walked on, on this earth and now in Heaven. My heart and soul went with you. The depth of the pain is suffocating and bottomless without you every moment of every day.
‘I will never be the same. Please wait for me my love, and hold my hand while I stay to continue to protect and raise your little sisters and to be here for Riley.
‘I know you would want that. Happy Birthday my sweet sweet Boy. You were much too good for this world.’
Lisa Marie Presley paid tribute to her late son, Benjamin Keough (pictured above), on what would have been his 28th birthday
‘I worshipped the ground you walked on, on this earth and now in Heaven,’ Lisa Marie wrote on what would have been her son’s 28th birthday. ‘My heart and soul went with you.’
Benjamin Keough with his mother Lisa Marie Presley in 2012. He took his own life in July 2020
Graceland, the Memphis, Tennessee estate, was bought by her Mississippi-born father Elvis in the spring of 1957, when he was 22 and had just hit fame.
The 1939 house and its grounds were sold to the young rocker for $100,000, and on his death in 1977 they passed to his only child, Lisa Marie.
Lisa Marie’s mother Priscilla – who divorced Elvis in 1973 – transformed the faltering estate into a tourist attraction on his death, opening it to visitors in 1982.
The grounds now see 600,000 visitors a year – making it second only to the White House and the Biltmore Estate for tourist numbers.
And while the house sees a stream of people to gawk at the jaw-dropping excess of the jungle room, and gaze at the fabulously kitsch white and blue 1970s living room, the building remains in use as a family home – where the Presleys gather for dinners and reunions.
Lisa Marie is pictured with twins Harper Vivienne and Finley, daughter Riley, and son Benjamin
Benjamin was the son of musician Danny Keough, who married Lisa Marie in 1988 and divorced her in 1994. Pictured, Lisa Marie and Danny
His suicide led to fears for a devastated Lisa Marie’s own health, with her ex-husband Michael Lockwood saying in court documents he feared she would relapse into drug addiction.
Riley and Benjamin were born during their mother’s first marriage, to actor Danny Keough.
Despite Lisa Marie leaving him in 1994 and marrying Michael Jackson 20 days later, Danny and Lisa Marie remained on friendly terms.
She was living with him at the time of her death, and he found her collapsed at their home after returning from taking the twins to school: he performed CPR until the paramedics arrived.
How much money Lisa Marie’s three daughters will inherit remains unclear.
Despite their grandfather being one of the biggest-selling musicians of all time, the finances were frequently precarious – thanks to The King’s lavish lifestyle and generosity.
When he died in 1977, he had only $5million in the bank – thanks, in part, to a deal made by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, five years before his death.
In 1973 Parker sold all of Presley’s master recordings to RCA Records for $5.4million, which means the label pays no royalties to the estate for tracks released before 1973.
Of his 23 studio albums, only five were released after 1973.
Elvis’s catalogue has been shopped around over the years: in 2013 the rights to his music and image were bought by Authentic Brands, which owns Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali’s rights.
Last year, Authentic announced a deal with Universal Music to share the rights.
The royalties are not the only issue.
Elvis’s trust, which was once valued at $100million, was all but gone by 2015.
Lisa Marie appointed Barry Siegel in 2003 to manage the money – the same year she launched a musical career of her own.
Siegel, senior managing director of Provident Financial Management and a prominent entertainment business manager, counted Al Pacino, Elijah Wood, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as his clients.
But in 2005 Siegel sold off 85 per cent of Lisa Marie’s share in Elvis Presley Enterprises, which saw her lose control of her father’s name and image rights.
Siegel said the deal ‘cleared up over $20million in debts that Lisa had incurred and netted her over $40million cash and a multi-million dollar income stream’.
Lisa Marie said it lost her millions thanks to a subsequent investment in Core Entertainment, the company behind American Idol that went bankrupt in 2016.
Siegel then allegedly began liquidating Lisa Marie’s assets in order to supplement her trust income.
She claimed his business decisions left her with a $500,000 credit card debt.
Barry Siegel began managing Lisa Marie’s finances in 2003, and in 2005 sold off 85 per cent of her share in Elvis Presley Enterprises, which saw her lose control of her father’s name and image rights. He insisted it was necessary to pay off her debts
Lisa Marie divorced her fourth husband, Michael Lockwood, in 2016, and in their divorce proceedings claimed she was $16million in debt – which Lockwood said was not true.
According to the documents, Lisa Marie at the time owed more than $10million in taxes from 2012 to 2017 and had defaulted on her debt of more than $6million from her United Kingdom home.
She also owed $263,050 in professional frees, $47,844 in credit card debt and an estimate of $250,000 in miscellaneous unpaid bills.
Presley revealed her financial struggles in response to a request from Lockwood that she help pay part of his $450,000 in attorney fees.
In 2018, she sued Siegel, accusing him of mismanaging her finances.
Siegel and his company, Providence Financial Management, countersued, alleging Presley’s ‘out-of-control spending’ led to her financial predicament.
Leon Gladstone, a lawyer representing Barry Siegel, said at the time: ‘It’s clear that Lisa Marie is going through a difficult time in her life and is looking to blame others instead of taking responsibility for her actions.’
Yet Lisa Marie was adamant that the financial collapse was his fault.
Lisa Marie and Michael Lockwood signed a pre nuptial agreement, but when they divorced in 2016 he challenged it. The case was still pending at the time of her death
‘Between 2005 and the time of the American Idol bankruptcy, Siegel billed $4.9million to ‘manage’ the trust, an average annual salary of $701,000 per year,’ the court documents state.
‘Had Siegel disclosed the the trust’s true financial condition to Presley and restricted spending to the trust’s ‘income’ rather than its principal assets, Presley would have lived comfortably on an annual budget of between $1.5 and $2million per year, after taxes.
‘On this budget, Siegel’s lucrative compensation package would have amounted to between 40 to 50 per cent of Presley’s post-tax annual budget – an amount she undoubtedly would not have agreed to had she been aware of her true financial condition.’
Instead of telling Lisa Marie the truth, Siegel covered up the dire straits of her finances, say her lawyers.
‘Siegel repeatedly led Lisa to believe she was in ‘good shape’ with her finances,’ the documents state.
Her attorneys cited several emails from Siegel responding to inquiries from Lisa Marie about how her trust fund was faring.
Lisa Marie drug treatment over the years also ate into her bank balances.
She said she was in rehab at least five times – with stints at one site she attended, Hills Treatment Center in Los Angeles, costing $40-50,000 a month.