Elvis Presley Died Nearly Broke, Then Priscilla Made His Estate Insanely Profitable

Thank you, thank you very much, Priscilla. Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley might have only been married for six years, but the two maintained their friendship long after their divorce. After going their separate ways, Priscilla became a savvy businesswoman, and her ex-husband supported her business ventures.

Although Elvis is the most successful recording artist of all time, he died nearly broke, for Elvis standards. When the singer died of a heart attack in 1977, his net worth was only $5 million. While that’s no small sum, it’s much less than the star made throughout his life. Excessive spending throughout his career caused his net worth to sink, but it was Priscilla who turned his fortune around in the years after his untimely death. And now, he’s the fifth highest paid dead celebrity of 2020.

Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley
Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley | Bettmann/Getty Images

Elvis and Priscilla were married from 1967 to 1973

Elvis and Priscilla, now 73, first met when Priscilla was just 14 and Elvis was 24. They met in 1959, when the singer was already famous and stationed in Germany as part of his military service.

Although her parents didn’t initially approve of their daughter’s relationship with the star, they eventually let her move to Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1962. They got married May 1, 1967, and their only child, Lisa Marie Presley, was born on Feb. 1, 1968.

While the couple was very much in love, Priscilla later admitted that their marriage was difficult. She noted that her husband created a “bubble” of people around him, and that he was very particular about how he lived his life. She shared that she went to great lengths to assure he never saw her without a full face of makeup.

Eventually, Priscilla didn’t like that her entire world revolved around her husband. After getting involved with her karate instructor, Mike Stone, Priscilla filed for divorce in 1972, although her reported romance with Stone was undoubtedly not the sole reason for their split. She went on to become an actress, model, and businesswoman.

Lisa Marie Presley, Priscilla Presley, and Elvis Presley
Lisa Marie Presley, Priscilla Presley, and Elvis Presley | Magma Agency/WireImage

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Elvis spent his fortune on his expensive lifestyle

As for Elvis, he threw a lot of money at his lavish lifestyle. He spent $500,000 on additional land and improvements for Graceland after buying it for $102,500. He spent a lot of money on the home he moved his father, Vernon Presley, and stepmother into near Graceland, and then more when his father wanted to add updates to the house, like a swimming pool in a bedroom.

He foot the bill for his and his “Memphis Mafia” antics with his circle of friends as well. Those antics included expensive and dangerous games like “Whip,” which was played with Air Force jumpsuits and $15,000 worth of firecrackers, according to Celebrity Net Worth. He would also rent out the amusement park Libertyland just to ride his favorite rollercoaster. He also had hotel rooms redecorated to mimic Graceland so he wouldn’t get homesick, and his drug addiction cost him a lot of money as well. As he got sicker in the final years of his life, those close to him would spend his money.

Being the most successful recording artist of all time, his net worth could have been much greater than $5 million when he died had it not been for his excessive spending. But one smart move he made was leaving his fortune to his family.

Rock and roll singer Elvis Presley with his wife Priscilla Beaulieu Presley and their 4 day old daughter Lisa Marie Presley
Rock and roll singer Elvis Presley with his wife Priscilla Beaulieu Presley and their 4 day old daughter Lisa Marie Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Priscilla Presley saved Elvis’ fortune

Elvis and Priscilla had been divorced for four years when he died at the age of 42. In his will, he left his fortune to his father, his grandmother, and Lisa Marie, who was only 9 years old at the time.

Following the death of his father in 1979 and the death of his grandmother in 1980, Lisa Marie was left with the fortune. Being a child, Priscilla became the main person in charge of her ex’s estate. By this point, due to taxes on Graceland and other expenses, the King’s fortune had dwindled down to $1 million. But his ex-wife changed all of that.

Priscilla and Elvis maintained a positive friendship in the years after their divorce (she still refers to him as the love of her life). She honored his legacy by establishing Elvis Presley Enterprises and transforming Graceland into a museum.

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Priscilla’s years as the chairwoman of Elvis Presley Enterprises took his fortune from $1 million to $100 million in value. Taking care of her ex-husband meant taking care of her daughter’s future as well, and Lisa Marie inherited Elvis Presley enterprises when she turned 25 in 1993. The two have spent decades assuring the enduring legacy of the late music icon.

The majority of Elvis’ net worth now is thanks to his continued music sales and the continued profits from the Graceland museum. According to Forbes, he is the fifth highest paid dead celebrity of 2020, having accrued $23 million this year. And this is all thanks to Priscilla.