MEMPHIS — 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.
CKx owns rights to the name, image and likeness of Elvis Presley and the operations of Graceland, Presley's Memphis mansion. Although the American Idol franchise is the company's main money maker, the Elvis brand is still an earner. Elvis, 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, its former CEO, and Simon Fuller, the British media mogul who created the Idol franchise before selling his company, 19 Entertainment, to CKx in 2005. Sillerman's offer, made public last week, values the company at $512 million to $535 million.
In a federal filing, Sillerman said he plans to offer $5.50 to $5.75 a share for at least an additional 30 percent of CKx on top of the 21 percent he already holds.
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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 theaters nationwide showed the remastered film Elvis on Tour: 75th Anniversary Celebration on July 29.
The Elvis marketing machine seeks to attract younger consumers without abandoning its core audience of people 45 and older.
Attendance was 542,728 last year at Graceland, the Memphis tourist attraction that features a tour of Elvis' home and grave. Revenue was down about 2 percent, partly due to lower e- commerce revenue and a slight decrease in per-visitor spending, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Attendance this year is down 6 percent compared with 2009, with the gulf oil disaster discouraging tourists who would have stopped in Memphis on the way to beach destinations or New Orleans, officials said.