Failed Graceland sale by a mystery entity highlights attempts to take assets of older or dead people (2024)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The catalyst behind the failed gambit to sell off the iconic Graceland property in Memphis is a mystery.

The self-styled investment company also is under fire from a lawsuit alleging fraud, an aggressive attorney general and a community of Elvis Presley loyalists who consider the home-turned-museum of the the king of rock n’ roll to be sacred ground.

Among the many questions surrounding the attempt to auction Graceland is how often cases pop up in which an entity emerges to claim assets of older or dead people. Experts say it’s more common than one might think.

“I have never heard of a fraud targeting such a well-known institution. So it’s a bit surprising on that end,” said Nicole Forbes Stowell, a business law professor at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus. “But I don’t think it’s surprising to everyday people that are the targets.”

Naussany Investments and Private Lending caused a stir when a public notice for a foreclosure sale of the 13-acre (5-hectare) Graceland estate was posted this month.

The notice said Promenade Trust, which controls the Graceland museum, owed $3.8 million after failing to repay a 2018 loan. Riley Keough, an actor and Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, inherited the trust and ownership of the home after her mother, Lisa Marie Presley, died in 2023.

Recent Developments

Graceland foreclosure sale halted as Presley estate’s lawsuit moves forward

A judge has halted the auction of Graceland by a company that claimed Elvis Presley’s estate failed to repay a loan that used the property as collateral.

Tennessee attorney general looking into attempt to sell Graceland in foreclosure auction

Tennessee’s attorney general says his office is looking into a company’s attempt to sell Elvis Presley’s home Graceland at a foreclosure auction, a move that was stopped by a judge after the king of rock n’ roll’s granddaughter filed a lawsuit claiming fraud.

Naussany said Lisa Marie Presley used Graceland as collateral for the loan, according to the foreclosure sale notice. Keough filed a lawsuit on May 15 alleging Naussany presented fraudulent documents regarding the loan in September 2023 and asking a Memphis judge to block the sale to the highest bidder.

“Lisa Maria Presley never borrowed money from Naussany Investments and never gave a deed of trust to Naussany Investments,” Keough’s lawyer Jeff Germany wrote in the lawsuit.

“It’s a scam,” actor Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ former wife, declared on her social media accounts.

On Wednesday, an injunction by Shelby County Chancellor JoeDae Jenkins halted the sale, which was planned for the next day. Jenkins said in court that Elvis Presley’s estate could be successful in arguing Nausanny’s attempt to auction Graceland is fraudulent.

One reason is an affidavit from Kimberly Philbrick, the Florida notary whose name is listed on Naussany’s documents. Philbrick indicated she never met Lisa Marie Presley or notarized any documents for her, according to the lawsuit. The judge said the affidavit brought the signature’s authenticity into question.

On the relevant documents, the signature blocks were not correct and the paperwork references an online notarization option that was not recognized in Florida until 2020, two years after the alleged notarization, Stowell said.

Failed Graceland sale by a mystery entity highlights attempts to take assets of older or dead people (1)

“That makes me wonder if these documents were created after Lisa Marie passed away,” Stowell said. “The whole thing does not pass the smell test.”

Mark Sunderman, a University of Memphis real estate professor, questioned why the lender would foreclose now if it had not received payments years after the loan was issued.

“If someone starts missing payments or hasn’t made a payment, you’re not going to sit around for a couple of years and then say, ‘Golly, I think we need to foreclose now,’” Sunderman said.

The lender’s legitimacy also is in doubt after unsuccessful attempts by The Associated Press to verify its existence beyond an email address and court filing signed by a Gregory Naussany.

Court documents included company addresses in Jacksonville, Florida, and Hollister, Missouri. Both were for post offices, and a Kimberling City, Missouri, reference was for a post office box. The business also is not listed in state databases of registered corporations in Missouri or Florida.

“I’ve never heard of that business,” Kimberling City Clerk Laura Cather said.

A search of online records for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority showed no registration for the company. No representatives of Naussany appeared in court, though the company filed an unsuccessful motion denying the lawsuit’s allegations and opposing the estate’s request for an injunction.

After the sale was halted, Naussany issued a statement saying it would drop its claim because a key document in the case and loan were recorded and obtained in a different state, meaning “legal action would have to be filed in multiple states.” The statement did not specify the other state.

Naussany has not responded to emailed interview requests from the AP. Online court records did not show any legal filings suggesting the claim, or the lawsuit, had been dropped.

Sunderman, the Memphis professor, said that apparently fraudulent claims involving real estate asset disputes arise more often than people think, especially in situations involving inheritances.

“It’s very difficult for someone to say, ‘Well, no, I didn’t take out this loan, I didn’t sign these papers,’ when they’re dead,’” Sunderman said.

Failed Graceland sale by a mystery entity highlights attempts to take assets of older or dead people (2)

Darrell Castle, a Memphis attorney not involved in the case but monitoring it, said he often sees cases where older people are targets of fraud.

“I get cases quite often where people who are really helpless in the final stages of life in a nursing home are financially victimized,” Castle said. “The human mind will think of some way to cheat and steal if it can.”

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said Thursday that his office was looking into the case to determine whether the estate was targeted with fraud.

Skrmetti’s office can investigate and bring civil lawsuits, including in instances of alleged consumer fraud. It could turn over evidence of criminal wrongdoing to the district attorney or federal authorities.

Opened in 1982, Graceland quickly became Memphis’ most famous tourist attraction and a touchstone for fans of Elvis Presley, the singer, actor and fashion icon who died in August 1977 at the age of 42. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock annually to the museum and the large entertainment complex across the street.

Who would target it with a scheme that “fell apart with the first email and phone call, or internet search,” and what holes in the legal system let it got closer to the auction block than it should have, should be the focuses of the attorney general, said Nikos Passas, a Northeastern University criminology and criminal justice professor.

“The chance of succeeding in what they were trying to do — that is, to get the property auctioned off and get the proceeds and then use the money — doesn’t seem to be the actual intent, unless they are incredibly stupid,” Passas said. “So, the question is then, ‘What was the intent, and who was behind it?’”


Mattise reported from Nashville, Tennessee. AP reporter Heather Hollingsworth contributed from Mission, Kansas.

Failed Graceland sale by a mystery entity highlights attempts to take assets of older or dead people (2024)


What is the fate of Graceland? ›

Graceland was turned into a public museum in tribute to Elvis in 1982. About 650,000 people visit the estate every year. The property is estimated to be worth $500 million. Lisa Marie vowed to keep Graceland in the family.

Is Graceland accurate? ›

Maybe, but “Graceland” is inspired by the true story of a beachfront mansion once owned by a drug kingpin — and huge Elvis Presley fan. Seized by the U.S. government in 1992, the mansion was used until 2001 as a secret operations base.

Why can't Graceland be sold? ›

Graceland foreclosure sale halted as Presley estate's lawsuit moves forward. A judge has halted the auction of Graceland by a company that claimed Elvis Presley's estate failed to repay a loan that used the property as collateral.

Is Graceland in financial trouble? ›

A public notice for a foreclosure sale of the 13-acre estate in Memphis posted earlier in May said Promenade Trust, which controls the Graceland museum, owes $3.8 million after failing to repay a 2018 loan.

Can you stay overnight in Graceland? ›

The short answer is no, you can't stay overnight at the Graceland mansion. However, Elvis fans can get a feeling for what a stay at Graceland might be like at the neighboring official Elvis Presley Enterprises hotel, The Guest House at Graceland.

Is it safe to go to Graceland now? ›

We are committed to the health and safety of our guests and associates and have been working diligently to ensure your visit is everything you are dreaming of! Please be sure to review our Graceland COVID-19 Protocols so you can know what to expect for your upcoming visit.

Does anyone still live at Graceland? ›

Though no members of the Presley family actively live in Graceland, Riley does have vivid memories of her past stays in her family's home, and told VF: "There were a few times that we slept there," recalling: "The tours would start in the morning, and we would hide upstairs until they were over.

Is Graceland going to be demolished? ›

"Graceland will continue to operate as it has for the past 42 years, ensuring that Elvis fans from around the world can continue to have the best in class experience when visiting his iconic home,” Elvis Presley Enterprises said in a statement.

Who will inherit Graceland when Lisa dies? ›

Following her death, Elvis Presley's legendary Tennessee estate will be passed down to her three children, Riley, Harper, and Finley.

What is going on with Graceland? ›

A look at Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, on May 22, 2024 in Memphis, Tennessee. Graceland can stay in the hands of Elvis Presley's family for the time being, after a Tennessee court chancellor ruled Wednesday that a mysterious company trying to sell it likely committed fraud.

Will Graceland stay open after Lisa Marie's death? ›

She then had two more daughters, twins Harper and Finley now 14, with Michael Lockwood, who she married in 2006, they were divorced in 2016. Her three remaining children will inherit Graceland which is open to fans of the late musician and his family for tours and overnight stays.

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