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Elvis week hits stride as buyout talks heat up
MEMPHIS, Tenn. | Elvis Presley is in play.
CKx Inc., owner of the “American Idol” television program and 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises, is mulling at least two offers to buy the company. At the same time, thousands of Elvis fans have descended on Memphis for Elvis Week, the annual commemoration of the American music icon’s life and death.
CKx owns rights to the name, image and likeness of Elvis Presley and the operations of Graceland, Presley’s Memphis mansion. While the “American Idol” franchise is the company’s main moneymaker, the “Elvis” brand is still an earner. Presley, who died in 1977, generated more than $60 million last year in revenue from royalties, licensing and Graceland’s operations.
Two faces familiar to CKx have offered to buy it: Robert Sillerman, the company’s former CEO, and Simon Fuller, the British media mogul who created the “Idol” franchise before selling his company, 19 Entertainment, to CKx in 2005.
Mr. Sillerman’s offer, made public Wednesday, values the company at between $512 million and $535 million.
A sale is not expected to significantly affect the Elvis business, which grew 10 percent in 2009 compared with the year before.
Interest in Presley remains strong, and the brand is constantly being refreshed. For example, “Viva Elvis,” a live Cirque du Soleil show based on the icon’s life, has been a hit in Las Vegas since opening in February.
More than 400 theaters nationwide showed the remastered film “Elvis on Tour: 75th Anniversary Celebration” on July 29. Presley remains highly visible on the Internet, with a Facebook fan page boasting 1 million fans and a website that gets an average of 700,000 unique visitors a month, according to Jack Soden, president and CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The Elvis marketing machine seeks to attract younger consumers without abandoning its core audience of people 45 and above. Marketers are relying for interest on fans who never saw Presley in person, whether the youthful, thin ‘50s rocker or the older, chubby ‘70s Las Vegas star.
Presley’s music is still the cornerstone of his success and the future of the brand. Recently, a Nike soccer advertisement featuring the ditty “A Little Less Conversation” struck a chord with the 18-to-34 demographic in Britain, a sign that the company’s strategy to reach out to younger consumers is working, Mr. Ferrel said.
Attendance was 542,728 last year at Graceland, the Memphis tourist attraction that features a tour of Elvis‘ home and grave. Revenues were down about 2 percent, partly owing to lower e-commerce revenue and a slight decrease in per-visitor spending, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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