Monday, June 17, 2024

Elvis Presley: Big Business in Death But His Charitable Foundations Have Ground to a Halt


Elvis Presley is alive for his fans in memory and in sales. As far as charity goes, however, Elvis has left the building. Both of the foundations connected to him– the Presley Foundation and the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation– are moribund.

It’s the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Is he still popular? This year alone, according to Buzz Angle, his records have had so far 290 million streams. He’s sold almost 292,000 albums this year–2017– to date. Elvis has sold 465,800 songs– that’s singles– this year, too. Even after 60 years, ain’t nothing but a hound dog.

These days, Elvis and Graceland are money making machines. Forbes estimated that Elvis raked in $55 million in 2015. The total value of Elvis’s estate could be as high as $500 million.

Some background: Lisa Marie Presley inherited her father’s estate. In 2005, she sold 85% of the estate– except for Graceland and Elvis’s personal possessions– to CKX Inc for $100 million. In 2013, CKX sold their holdings to another company, Authentic Brands. Lisa Marie still holds that 15% plus everything done at Graceland, etc. It’s a lot of money. And it’s always coming in.

Graceland maintains a website for the Presley Charitable Foundation. But over the years this group, run by Lisa Marie, has rapidly dissipated. Registered in Santa Monica, the Presley Charitable Foundation had just $26 in revenue in 2014-15. Yes, twenty six dollars. Claiming total assets of $112K, they made exactly one donation in that year– to St Jude’s Children’s Hospital, for $4,500. (This is from their Federal tax filing form 990.)

The Presley Charitable Foundation touts low cost housing– an apartment building they put their name on in Memphis called Presley Place in conjunction with other Memphis charities. But the latest tax filing doesn’t mention the building or any other projects. The Presley Charitable Foundation lists an address in Santa Monica, California. But when I called there yesterday, a woman who answered the phone said they were long gone.

Meanwhile, there’s the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation, registered in Memphis. Lisa Marie is president of this charity, too. On their Form 990 for 2014 which goes to the end of 2015 the EPCF had just $59,588 in its till. In 2015, they made a total contribution of $2,525 divided among four groups.

It wasn’t always this way. Back in 2006-07, the EPCF gave away $277K to mostly local charities. Even as late as 2010, they gave almost $250K to another set of locals. But the estate contributed almost nothing that year, and funds were dwindling.

According to the group’s website at “The Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation receives a portion of the overall business income of Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises, with additional funding from the company’s royalties on specially licensed products and from special benefit events the company stages. A meaningful amount of the EPCF’s funding also comes from donations made by Elvis fan clubs and individual Elvis fans and admirers from around the world.”

Of course, as with most celebrity families there are a lot of mouths to feed. Lisa Marie lives off the estate. She has four kids by two ex husbands and is currently in a bizarre divorce/custody battle with the most recent one. (The two other ex husbands– Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage — didn’t need her money.) Then, of course, there’s her mom, Priscilla Presley, who helped turn Graceland into a huge business, and Scientology, to whom both Lisa Marie and Priscilla have given money in the past.

But at least one of Elvis’s descendants turns out to be a surprise bread winner– Lisa Marie’s daughter, actress Riley Keough. She’s been a total success, currently starring in Steven Soderbergh’s “Logan Lucky” and the director’s TV series, “The Girlfriend Experience.” She turns out to be Elvis’s greatest legacy.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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