Vegas Chapels Told To Stop Theme Weddings By Elvis Presley Enterprises Owner

Almost a decade after acquiring the majority of Elvis Presley Enterprises from the late Robert Sillerman’s CKX, the company that now controls the name and image of The King has Las Vegas all shook up by ordering some Sin City wedding chapels to stop using Elvis’ image and themes in their famous ceremonies.

Elvis impersonator Brendan Paul, right, walks down the aisle during a wedding ceremony for Katie Salvatore, center, and Eric Wheeler at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. Authentic Brands Group (ABG) sent cease-and-desist letters earlier this month to multiple chapels, saying they had to comply by the end of May, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Authentic Brands Group (ABG), a brand management company that owns more than 50 brands as well as licensing rights to the images of Muhammad Ali and Marilyn Monroe as well as of Presley, sent cease-and-desist letters in early May to multiple Vegas wedding chapels, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The chapels were expected to be compliant by May 27, the paper reports.

With Elvis so closely tied to Vegas’ wedding industry, some say the move could decimate their businesses.

“This couldn’t hit at a worse time. It’s not a good thing,” Clark County Clerk Lynn Goya, who has presided over Las Vegas’ wedding marketing campaign, told the paper. “It might destroy a portion of our wedding industry. A number of people might lose their livelihood.”

“We are a family-run business, and now we’re hanging with the big dogs,” Kayla Collins, who operates and the Little Chapel of Hearts with her husband, added. “That’s our bread and butter. I don’t get it. We were just hitting our stride again through COVID, then this happens.”

The city’s wedding industry generates $2 billion a year, and officials say Elvis-themed weddings represent a significant number of the ceremonies performed.

One chapel had its Elvis impersonator change instead into a leather jacket, jeans and a fedora for a “rock ‘n’ roll” themed ceremony, the Review-Journal reports. But not all such chapels have been served, including Graceland Wedding Chapel, which performs a reported 6,400 Elvis-themed weddings per year.

See also: Sillerman Talks Graceland

In the cease-and-desist letter, the company said it will halt unauthorized use of “Presley’s name, likeness, voice image, and other elements of Elvis Presley’s persona in advertisements, merchandise and otherwise.” The letter also said “Elvis,” “Elvis Presley,” and “The King of Rock and Roll” are protected trademarks.

The order should not translate into legal action against Elvis-themed stage shows in Las Vegas such as “All Shook Up” because impersonating someone for live performances such as shows is considered an exception under Nevada’s right of publicity law, according to Mark Tratos, a local attorney who helped write the statute.

But, in a statement to Pollstar, a spokeswoman for ABG says it seeks to “partner” with chapels to ensure that any use is “officially licensed and authorized by the estate.” The full statement reads:

“As the guardians of the Elvis Presley estate, it is our responsibility to safeguard his legacy. This includes ensuring that all products, services and advertisements utilizing Elvis’ name, image or likeness are officially licensed by Elvis Presley Enterprises.

“The estate has strong relationships with official Elvis tribute artists, fan clubs and festivals, as well as a robust global network of licensed merchandise partners. There is no intention to shut down chapels that offer Elvis packages in Las Vegas. We are seeking to partner with each of these small businesses to ensure that their use of Elvis’ name, image and likeness are officially licensed and authorized by the estate, so they can continue their operations.

“Elvis is embedded into the fabric of Las Vegas history, and we are committed to protecting and expanding his legacy for generations to come.”

It’s not certain if ABG intends to carry out legal action against businesses that fail to comply with the company’s request, or if it will expand efforts to include ubiquitous Elvis impersonators in and beyond Las Vegas with which ABG does not have agreements.

There was such a fear, though never realized, when Sillerman acquired 85% of Elvis Presley Enterprises in 2005 from the Elvis Presley Trust and Lisa Marie Presley, who retains 15% of assets including the Graceland mansion itself and some of her father’s personal effects.

Sillerman, then the largest shareholder and Chairman/CEO of CKX, made big plans for the area surrounding Graceland, including a hotel and entertainment district, those never came to fruition.

See Also: Sillerman Exits CKX

By the time CKX sold Elvis Presley Enterprises to ABG, Sillerman had exited his positions (though he retained his 20% ownership) at CKX and was beginning to make moves toward reviving his old brand, SFX, which he attempted and failed to take private. Ultimately, Sillerman became embroiled in a number of financial scandals and lawsuits and the company went bankrupt. He died in November, 2019.