Elvis's Graceland all shook up by allegations of fraud, talk of foreclosure

Visitors queue to enter the Graceland mansion of Elvis Presley in Whitehaven, Tenn., during events surrounding the anniversary of his death, in 2017.   (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)
Visitors queue to enter the Graceland mansion of Elvis Presley in Whitehaven, Tenn., during events surrounding the anniversary of his death, in 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)

Elvis Presley's estate Graceland is the subject of heated litigation, which could lay bare a complex web of financial information surrounding one of America's best known cultural landmarks.

An auction for Graceland had been scheduled for this week, but a Tennessee judge on Wednesday blocked it. Shelby County Chancellor JoeDae Jenkins issued a temporary injunction after Presley's granddaughter Riley Keough sought a temporary restraining order and filed her own lawsuit.

Here's what's known so far:

The disputes

A public notice for a foreclosure sale of the 13-acre estate just outside of Memphis, Tenn., posted earlier in May said Promenade Trust, which controls the Graceland museum, owes $3.8 million US after failing to repay a 2018 loan. Keough, an actor, inherited the trust and ownership of the home after the death of her mother, Lisa Marie Presley, last year.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/The Associated Press
Chris Pizzello/Invision/The Associated Press

Naussany Investments and Private Lending said Lisa Marie Presley had used Graceland as collateral for the loan, according to the foreclosure sale notice. Keough, on behalf of the Promenade Trust, sued last week, claiming that Naussany presented fraudulent documents regarding the loan in September 2023.

"Lisa Maria Presley never borrowed money from Naussany Investments and never gave a deed of trust to Naussany Investments," Keough's lawyer wrote in a lawsuit.

Kimberly Philbrick, the notary whose name is listed on the documents, indicated that she never met Lisa Marie Presley nor notarized any documents for her, the court filing said. The Associated Press texted Philbrick at numbers believed to be hers, but she hadn't responded by Tuesday.

Kurt Naussany, who was identified in court documents as a defendant, directed questions in an email to Gregory Naussany. Gregory Naussany told the AP in an email: "The attorneys can make comment!" Court records do not show a lawyer for the company.

Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian/The Associated Press
Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian/The Associated Press

The court documents included addresses for the businesses in Jacksonville, Fla., and Hollister, Mo. Both were for post offices. A Kimberling City, Mo., reference was for a post office box.

"Elvis Presley Enterprises can confirm that these claims are fraudulent. There is no foreclosure sale. Simply put, the counter lawsuit has been filed is to stop the fraud," Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. (EPE) said in a statement Tuesday.

Neither Keough nor lawyers for Naussany Investments were in court Wednesday. Keough's attorney, Jeff Germany, said outside of court that he has not had direct contact with representatives from Naussany.

The judge said he would give Naussany the opportunity to defend itself from the fraud claims.

Graceland history

The property in Whitehaven, Tenn., just outside of Memphis and about 150 kilometres from the singer's birthplace of Tupelo, Miss., was purchased in 1957 for $102,500 US from a local doctor who had named it after an aunt Grace. Built in 1939, the house at the time of its purchase featured 18 rooms.

"This is going to be a lot nicer than Red Skelton's house when I get it like I want it," Elvis Presley told the Memphis Press-Scimitar, referring to the popular television comic.

Mark Humphrey/The Associated Press
Mark Humphrey/The Associated Press

According to the two-volume Presley biography written by Peter Guralnick, the singer's father, Vernon, at the time had considered a move to California for privacy, as fans were descending on their previous home.

But the singer's beloved mother, Gladys, fell in love with the Whitehaven property. She would spend very little time there, though, dying of a heart attack in 1958 at age 46.

Four years later, the singer's high school girlfriend Priscilla Beaulieu would move in, and the couple would ultimately spend time there and at a Beverly Hills, Calif., home. The couple wed in 1967 — with one of their receptions held at Graceland — and divorced in 1973.

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Priscilla Presley, who turns 79 later this week, posted a picture of Graceland on Instagram on Tuesday with the inscription "It's a Scam!" in apparent reference to the estate sale of the property that has been valued in the hundreds of millions.

Graceland opened as a museum and tourist attraction in 1982 as a tribute to the legendary singer and actor who died there in August 1977 at age 42. Within a span of three years, the singer's father, Vernon, and grandmother Minnie Mae would also die, leaving the then-underage Lisa Marie as the lone trustee of the estate.

After she took control at age 25 in the 1990s, Presley reportedly sold large amounts of her stake to various entities and encountered financial difficulties as she tried to establish her own singing career.

After Presley's 2023 death at age 56, Keough became the sole trustee for the 15 per cent ownership stake in EPE that she shares with her twin sisters, Harper and Finley, who are under 18.

Graceland draws about 500,000 visitors each year, according to its website, and was designated in 2006 as a National Historic Landmark. A large Presley-themed entertainment complex across the street from the museum is owned by EPE.