Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino continues to hold on to hundreds of Elvis Presley memorabilia items from the “Graceland Presents Elvis” exhibition they once displayed. The items belong to Elvis Presley Enterprises, which has been in a legal dispute with Westgate since February 2016.
The exhibit contains Elvis Presley’s jewelry, letters, stage outfits, and other relics from the career of the King of Rock’n Roll. Those relics were put on display in the Las Vegas casino for a short time, before Elvis Presley Enterprises vacated the Off-Strip casino’s exhibition space.
10-Year Leasing Agreement
Westgate Las Vegas considered that move to be a default on the 10-year leasing agreement the two parties had signed. In February 2016, Elvis Presley Enterprises filed a lawsuit to retrieve its many items. In May 2016, the two sides agreed to arbitration and a Las Vegas judge ruled that Elvis Enterprieses could retrieve the full exhibit if it posted a $9 million bond while the leasing issue was pending.
EPE chose not to do that. Instead, it awaits the ruling of an arbitration judge next month. The Presley estate, which runs the Graceland attraction in Memphis, Tennessee, did not answer phone calls or emails on the story.
Graceland Presents Elvis Exhibit
“Graceland Presents Elvis” opened on May 30, 2015 in the Westgate Las Vegas to great fanfare, because Elvis played at the casino hundreds of times when it still was named the Las Vegas Hilton and International. The attraction billed itself as the largest collection of Elvis memorabilia outside of Graceland itself. The exhibit only stayed open for a little over a year, though, causing Elvis’s estate to close operations.
The dispute began in February 2016, when the Elvis museum exhibit, theater, and wedding chapel shut down abruptly. Westgate claims EPE closed the exhibit due to poor attendance, which largely was due to poor marketing and promotions. Westgate claimed Elvis’s estate had defaulted on the lease, leaving the casino with millions of dollars spent renovating the space for a 10-year exhibit.
Both Sides Agreed to Arbitatration
Thus, Westgate decided to hold the remaining items in an attempt to recoup money/value owed to them as part of the leasing agreement. For its part, Elvis’s estate argued in court that the Westgate “aggressively seized” the items without a legitimate legal basis.
The Westgate’s Investment in the Exhibit
The Westgate built a 28,000-square-foot exhibit which featured a rotating display for the Elvis items. That included a number of relics from Presley’s business dealings with the Las Vegas Hilton, including a $1 million-a-year contract he signed on the back of a tablecloth.
The exhibit also featured a two-piece black Elvis jumpsuit, which the King wore during his opening night performance at the Las Vegas Hilton. Westgate’s exhibition also included the chapel which was featured on NBC’s Today Show, when the King’s first bride, Priscilla Presley, appeared as a suprise matron-of-honor.
Elvis Presley at the Hilton Las Vegas
From 1969 to 1976, Elvis put on over 600 sold-out shows at the Las Vegas Hilton. Though he had performed in Las Vegas before that time, it was during this era that Elvis Presley became inextricably linked to Las Vegas’s casino culture. This was the era of the white jumpsuits which so many Elvis impersonators these days use in their acts.
At the grand opening of the exhibit, Priscilla Presley said, “Just think, it was 59 years ago today that Elvis performed his first show in Las Vegas. Elvis loved Las Vegas and he loved his fans. He would be the first to welcome you to this great exhibition of his life.
“Lisa and I are so happy to share these wonderful artifacts from our family with you and are thrilled to bring the authentic Elvis back to Las Vegas for the first time in 40 years.“