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Published: Friday, 8/13/2010

'Burning love': Talks heat up 2 offers made for all rights to Elvis' brand

ASSOCIATED PRESS

fans descend on graceland

MEMPHIS - Elvis Presley is in play.

CKx Inc., owner of the American Idol TV show 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 money maker, the Elvis brand is

an earner. Elvis, who died in 1977, generated $60 million-plus last year in revenue from royalties, licensing, and Graceland operations.

Two faces familiar to CKx have offered to buy it: Robert Sillerman, the company's former chief executive officer, and Simon Fuller, the British media mogul who created the "Idol" franchise before selling 19 Entertainment to CKx in 2005. Mr. Sillerman's offer, made public Wednesday, values the company at between $512 million and $535 million.

In an Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Mr. Sillerman said he plans to offer $5.50 to $5.75 per share for at least another 30 percent worth of CKx on top of the 21 percent he holds.

A sale is not expected to significantly affect the Elvis business, which grew 10 percent in 2009 compared with the year before. "There is upside and growth to Elvis, and I think anybody who would buy it is someone who's going to come in and believe they can take it to the next level," CKx CEO Michael G. Ferrel said.

Elvis Presley Enterprises has 260 licensees, including SiriusXM, American Greetings, and Mattel. Last year's revenue from licensing and royalties rose 34 percent compared with 2008.

Interest in Elvis 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 U.S. theaters showed the remastered film Elvis on Tour: 75th Anniversary Celebration on July 29.

Elvis remains highly visible online, with a Facebook page boasting 1 million fans and a Web site that gets an average 700,000 unique visitors monthly, said Jack Soden, Elvis Presley Enterprises president and CEO.

The Elvis marketing machine seeks to attract younger consumers without abandoning its core 45-and-above audience.

Marketers are relying on fans who never saw in person the youthful, thin Elvis, or even the older, chubby Elvis, to keep interest alive.

Elvis' music is still the cornerstone of his success and the brand's future. Recently, a Nike soccer ad featuring Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation" struck a chord with the 18-to-34 demographic in Britain, a sign the strategy to reach out to younger consumers is working, Mr. Ferrel said.



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