A Behind the Scenes Look at How a Trusted Advisor Saved Graceland

This is the tale of smart estate planning, good business succession, wise wealth management, and the importance of an advisor you can trust.

It’s not often you get inside information on an American Icon. But sometimes you cross paths with people that leave an indelible impression on your life. Although I only knew him a short time, Frank Strauss was one of those people for me.

Frank Strauss was an investment advisor from Kansas City, Missouri. I call him an investment advisor, but in truth, Frank’s only client was himself. You see Frank had come into some money later in life and was able to live off of his investments while serving on several prominent charities in the Kansas City metro area.

My wife and I met Frank at a convention in San Diego years ago. I had known him, in passing, for a time. We would see him at meetings, and we would talk. We would look for each other at seminars and save seats for each other — knowing interesting conversation would occur no matter how boring the subject matter.

Frank was one of those people that, upon first impression, came off as a little odd. That might be why I gravitated toward Frank. I tend to find people such as him quite interesting. He reminded me a little of Albert Einstein — his hair in constant disarray. Each strand looked like it was in search of a home but after a while simply gave up and stood straight up or fell right where it was at. He was very slight of build and seemed kind of fragile. I learned later that he was sick. I just didn’t know how sick until it was too late. He wore spectacles and was nearly blind without them. He was so soft spoken you would have to lean in to hear him, but it was usually worth it. Frank was glib and had one of the most unique senses of humor of anyone I have known.

Anyway, the following story is straight from Frank who knew the people involved. It’s a fascinating tale of smart estate planning, good business succession, wise wealth management, and the importance of finding trusted advisors…

Elvis Made a Good Estate Plan

As you know, Elvis Presley died in 1977 leaving a fairly large estate, the subject of which was printed in newspapers the world over. Although Elvis’ life wasn’t the model life, especially at the end, his estate had been well thought out and documented. Good job, King!

Elvis had set up a trust upon his death that would provide income for his daughter, Lisa Marie, until her 25th birthday in 1993. Upon that time, it would dissolve and she could run things as she saw fit. The executor of the estate and trustee of the trust was Vernon Presely, Elvis’ father. He could dole out income to the beneficiaries as he saw fit. The beneficiaries were Minnie Presley, Elvis’ grandmother; his daughter Lisa Marie; and Vernon.

Vernon Presley passed away in 1979, and Minnie passed away in 1980. This left Lisa Marie as the sole heir. In his will, Vernon directed Priscilla Presley to be a successor trustee. This was great foresight on Vernon’s part, as you shall see.

The other successor trustee was The National Bank of Commerce in Memphis, where Elvis and his father had always done business.

Graceland In Trouble

In 1980, just three years after his death, the Estate of Elvis Aaron Presley was doing okay, but was having some cash flow problems. The biggest problem was Graceland, which was eating up cash to the tune of $500k a year — just for maintenance! The co-trustee of the trust — The National Bank of Commerce — was putting pressure on Priscilla to close the gap. “Graceland must be sold” they told her or it will continue to eat up all the cash in the estate.

Overwhelmed by everything that had happened in just a few years, Priscilla got to the point where she literally couldn’t think anymore. Elvis would not have wanted Graceland to be sold. What should she do? Enter Jack Soden.

Jack was a less-than-prominent investment advisor from Kansas City, Missouri. He went to private school in KC with my friend, Frank. Priscilla knew Jack only because of a connection to Morgan Maxfied.

Maxfield was a well-known ladies man in Kansas City but was engaged to Priscilla for a while. He was also a real estate and investment expert. So, Priscilla knew Jack through Morgan. Jack seemed down to earth, and Priscilla trusted these two men. Sadly, Morgan Maxifield was killed when his private plane crashed.

So, it’s 1981 and Priscilla Presley is at her wit’s end. She simply didn’t trust any of these so-called advisors. She didn’t believe any of them had her or Elvis’ estate in their best interest. They were all about the bottom line. But she believed she could save Graceland by allowing visitors to the house — like the Biltmore or Monticello.

She didn’t know if Jack Soden knew anything about her problem, but she knew he was a financial advisor and maybe he could help. What really mattered was that SHE TRUSTED HIM.

Priscilla asked Jack’s advice on nearly every decision. And Jack knew Priscilla was right. Graceland shouldn’t be sold. It could be partially opened to the public and saved. They hoped that a few people would come and they could at least break even on operating expenses.

Trusted Advisors Can Make All the Difference

Graceland opened for tours on June 7, 1982. During the following weeks, tours were so well attended, they made back the full amount of what it cost to open Graceland to the public.

“We didn’t know if we would have 300 people or 3,000,” said Jack. Priscilla Presley was blown away by what Graceland became.

As of 2020, Graceland is the second most visited home in America (after the White House) with more than 700,000 visitors a year! The economic impact on the surrounding city of Memphis is now estimated in the billions. Jack and Priscilla still run it today.

The moral of the story is this…

Priscilla Presley didn’t hire someone who had a long list of degrees or someone that everyone else said was the smartest. She didn’t go to Wall Street to find an advisor. She certainly could have hired “the best.” But she hired someone she trusted.

She hired someone she felt in her gut would do what was best for her and the estate. Jack Soden didn’t have any special training on managing estates such as this. But who does? He knew business and really cared about what happened to Priscilla. In essence, he had good Midwestern values that he stuck to.

At CSH Investments, we believe everyone deserves a reliable financial partner they can trust.

Feeling uncertain about your financial future can be stressful. We understand. It can also be hard to find a committed advisor to help you plan wisely. That’s why for over 20 years we’ve given our clients the guidance they need to find peace of mind with their investments, retirement planning, business succession, and wealth management.

Here’s how we can help you:

  1. We listen to your needs and goals.
  2. We devise a plan you can rely on.
  3. You succeed in securing the future you deserve and have planned for.

Call us today at 217-824-4211 for an introductory chat. We’ll get to know you and get some preliminary information, and then decide if moving forward is in your best interest. We can help you avoid financial uncertainty while enjoying a worry-free retirement, maximizing what you pass on, and living a comfortable life.