Jackson group is leader in race for Elvis rights
- By CLAIRE ATKINSON
The King of Rock and the King of Pop may be moving in together — financially speaking, that is.
An investment group that includes Sony/ATV, the music publishing giant half-owned by the estate of Michael Jackson, is emerging as the favorite to acquire Elvis Enterprises, The Post has learned.
The group, with G2 Investment Group, led by its music expert David Schulhof, and Highbridge Capital alongside Sony/ATV, is close to signing an exclusive negotiating contract with Apollo’s Core Media Group, sources said, which is selling Elvis Presley’s assets along with the name and likeness of Muhammad Ali.
While other suitors, Universal Music Group and fashion merchandising giant, Iconix, for example, kicked the tires, they did not submit bids, according to a source familiar with the talks.
Negotiations over the assets, including Graceland, The Heartbreak Hotel and the late singer’s clothes, cars and airplanes and music rights to many Elvis songs, are at a crucial point and could still break down, sources cautioned. The banker on the deal, Raine Group, is believed to have dark horse bidders still in the mix.
Sony/ATV, the music publishing arm of Sony, co-owned by the estate of the late King of Pop, already owns publishing rights to Elvis songs but pays royalties to the Elvis estate. Those royalties will no longer need to be paid if it succeeds in buying the assets from Apollo.
Any successful bidder will have to work hard to polish the Elvis brand, which earned $55 million in both 2012 and 2011, according to Forbes, down slightly from the $60 million it earned in 2010. Much of the decline is pegged to the closing of Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show, “Viva Elvis.”
Record sales are not included in Forbes’ tally for Elvis, who died in 1977.
“Elvis is showing his age a little bit,” said Zack O’Malley Greenburg, who compiles the Forbes list and is author of “Michael Jackson Inc.,” told The Post. “Elvis is going to keep generating tens of millions of dollars a year, but I don’t know how easy it is to make those numbers go up.”
By comparison, the estate of screen siren Elizabeth Taylor earned $210 million last year while Jacko’s estate earned $145 million, according to the magazine.
A movie about the King of Rock could fire up profits for the Presley estate, sources said, much like what “Walk the Line” did for Johnny Cash. An unnamed celebrity is said to have expressed interest in getting involved in such a project.
The owners, Core Media, then known as CKX, invested $20 million into the Las Vegas production.
Any deals for Elvis, movie or otherwise, would have to meet the approval of the Presley family. Lisa Marie Presley retains a 15 percent interest in Elvis Enterprises, just as the Ali family holds a stake, about 20 percent, in the Ali assets being sold.