By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS -- The billionaire media mogul who holds an 85 percent stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises told Memphis leaders that Graceland should become an international tourist attraction on par with Disneyland or Universal theme parks.
Meeting with government and business officials Thursday, Robert F.X. Sillerman said he has plans to spruce up the area around the Memphis mansion where Presley died in 1977 and double the 600,000 annual visitors.
"As we are upon the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley's explosion into our culture, it is only fitting that Graceland assumes an even more prominent role in American culture and tourism," said Sillerman.
Presley got his first gold record and made his first network TV appearances 50 years ago, culminating in his performance on Ed Sullivan's top-rated variety show in September 1956.
Sillerman, who also owns the hit TV show "American Idol," paid $114 million for his share of Elvis Presley Enterprises last year and made it part of his publicly traded company CKX Inc. Under EPE's management of tourism and licensing, Presley earned $45 million last year and topped Forbes magazine's list of top-earning dead celebrities.
Sillerman's goal is to enhance the "total fan experience" at Graceland to compel visitors to spend more time and money.
The company is working with Orlando, Fla.-based Bob Weis Design Island Associates to improve the tourist area around Graceland while keeping intact the historic home owned by the singer's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.
"We do know that the area that Graceland sits in is not the most attractive area," he said. "We know that that needs enhancement, if you will. Beyond that, the plans aren't specifically developed enough to know what that partnership form is going to take.
"But we do know that this is not something that Elvis Presley Enterprises and the Elvis Presley family can undertake by themselves."
Sillerman, who has been speaking with investors and developers, said he will ask local governments to help improve some of the public spaces around Graceland.
He said he wants to expand the visitor center and exhibit space to showcase thousands of pieces of Elvis memorabilia that have never been seen. There's also the possibility of a new hotel or an expansion to the existing Heartbreak Hotel near Graceland.