Moments before Lisa Marie Presley’s memorial began on Jan. 22 in Memphis, her family — mom Priscilla, half-brother Navarone Garibaldi Garcia, daughters Riley Keough and twins Finley and Harper Lockwood, along with the twins’ dad, Michael Lockwood — appeared united as they exited Graceland and took their seats on the front lawn.
As thousands of fans looked on, Lisa Marie’s loved ones delivered moving tributes. But behind the scenes, drama was brewing.
“Michael was not invited,” a close friend of Lisa Marie’s maintains in this week’s PEOPLE cover story, on newsstands Friday. “He came to Memphis under the pretense that he had to chaperone the twins — and he forced his way in with Priscilla’s help. The last thing Lisa Marie would have wanted was for Michael to be there.”
In the weeks leading up to her death on Jan. 12 at age 54, Lisa Marie and Priscilla, 77, had seemed close at various events while celebrating Baz Luhrmann’s Oscar-nominated Elvis biopic. But multiple sources say the two were barely speaking, and their relationship had been fractured since Lisa Marie’s split from Michael, 61, in 2016.
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Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley and Riley Keough; Lisa Marie and her kids
After the breakup, the exes were embroiled in a nasty custody battle over the twins that lasted until October of last year. Friends say Lisa Marie resented that Priscilla sided with Michael, and the tension trickled down to Riley, 33. (Her dad is Lisa Marie’s first husband, singer Danny Keough, 58.)
“Riley was always on her mom’s side when it came to Michael,” says a Riley source. “It bothered her that her grandmother and Michael flew to the funeral together.”
The simmering tension exploded four days after the memorial when lawyers for Priscilla filed a petition in Los Angeles questioning the “authenticity and validity” of a 2016 amendment to Lisa Marie’s living trust. The change had removed Priscilla and Lisa Marie’s former business manager Barry Siegel as cotrustees and given control of the trust — the Graceland mansion and a 15 percent stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE), which together brought in a reported $110 million in 2022 — to Riley and Lisa Marie’s son Benjamin Keough, who died by suicide at age 27 in 2020.
Steve Cohn/Shutterstock Riley Keough, Harper Lockwood, Lisa Marie Presley, Finley Lockwood, Priscilla Presley
Priscilla, who claims she didn’t know about the 2016 amendment until after Lisa Marie’s death, argued it should be voided because of several factors, including that Lisa Marie had not informed her of the changes as required by the terms of the trust. But Lisa Marie’s friend claims “there’s zero question” what her wishes were: “Lisa wanted Riley and Ben to be the trustees” — and for all her children to be the beneficiaries.
Now, as they mourn, Riley and Priscilla are barely speaking, according to multiple sources. Says a Presley family insider: “They don’t see eye to eye.”
(Reps for Priscilla, Riley, Lockwood and Siegel did not comment for this story.)
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The roots of the dynasty were planted in 1959 when Elvis — already a rock and roll superstar — first met 14-year-old Army brat Priscilla while he was stationed with the US Army in Germany.
In 1963, 17-year-old Priscilla moved to Memphis; she married Elvis in 1967 and gave birth to Lisa Marie exactly nine months later. After her parents’ divorce in 1973, Lisa Marie moved with her mom to LA but regularly visited her dad.
“She ruled Graceland at 6, 7 years old,” remembers talent manager Jerry Schilling, a member of Elvis’ “Memphis Mafia.” “Elvis spoiled her. He used to say, ‘Look, I don’t want to hoard up this money.’ He was known to give a lot of gifts, and he didn’t think about longevity or old age.”
When Elvis died from cardiac arrest in 1977 at the age of 42, he left behind an estate worth about $5 million. He will name his father, Vernon, executor and Lisa Marie, then 9 years old, his heir. Vernon died in 1979, and he will name Priscilla, his and Elvis’ longtime accountant and the National Bank of Commerce in Memphis as coexecutors of Elvis’ estate until Lisa Marie turned 25.
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With mounting bills (Graceland costs $480,000 a year to maintain) and no incoming royalties (Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, had sold the rights to most of his early hits to RCA Records), Graceland faced an uncertain financial future.
“The question I kept asking myself over and over was, ‘What are we ever going to do?’ Priscilla recalled to the Los Angeles Times in 1989.
When the IRS imposed a $10 million inheritance tax on the estate in 1981 after reappraising it at $22.5 million, Priscilla used the last $500,000 of the estate’s liquid assets to turn Graceland into a tourist attraction in 1982.
“The word on the street in Memphis was, ‘This won’t last for six months,'” Schilling says.
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But Graceland recovered the investment in 38 days and now draws more than 500,000 visitors a year. “It’s the epitome of Elvis and the American dream,” says author Martin Torgoff, an Elvis expert.
By the time Lisa Marie turned 25 in 1993, the estate’s value topped $100 million. (Beginning in 1983, EPE was able to make additional income from memorabilia and licensing fees; EPE also signed a deal with RCA in the ’90s entitling the estate to royalties from packaged anthologies of Elvis’ music.)
She formed the Promenade Trust to manage the estate, with Priscilla and the National Bank of Commerce as cotrustees.
“Everything remains the same, except I’m on the management team now,” Lisa Marie told PEOPLE in 1993, noting that Priscilla had done “an astonishing job” of managing her finances.
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When Lisa Marie launched her music career in 2003, she appointed her business manager Barry Siegel as a cotrustee with Priscilla. Less than two years into his role, Siegel sold 85 percent of the trust’s interests in EPE, which was still worth around $100 million.
By 2015 the trust was left with only $14,000 in cash and mountains of debt, leading to Lisa Marie’s lawsuit against Siegel in 2018 for mismanagement of her trust. She alleged that Siegel had given Priscilla an annual salary of $900,000, although she had no ownership or official position in EPE. (She and Siegel settled for an undisclosed amount out of court.)
As Lisa Marie’s finances and her marriage to Lockwood crumbled (she had previously been married to Keough, Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage), so did her relationship with Priscilla.
“I can assure you, in the last seven years of Lisa’s life, she never discussed with Priscilla any business,” her friend maintains, adding that before Benjamin’s death, Lisa Marie had “inquired on multiple occasions what it would take” to buy back more of a stake in EPE.
“She wanted each of her four children to have 5 percent of the estate,” says the friend.
Lisa Marie Presley Instagram Finley Lockwood, Lisa Marie Presley, Riley Keough, Benjamin Keough and Harper Lockwood
If the 2016 amendment is voided in court, Priscilla and Riley would be cotrustees.
“Priscilla doesn’t want Riley solely in charge, because then she has no say,” says the family insider. “Meanwhile, Riley doesn’t want Priscilla to butt in.”
Adds the Riley source: “It’s a very sad situation. Riley is shocked Priscilla is contesting the amendment.”
Michael Kovac/Getty Priscilla Presley and Riley Keough
In a Feb. 3 statement, Priscilla maintained she is acting with “integrity and love,” and a Lockwood source says the matriarch remains close to Michael to “be a part of her grandchildren’s lives.”
With a court hearing scheduled for April 13, sources say Riley is focused on her acting career — she stars in Amazon Prime Video’s new limited series Daisy Jones & the Six — and Elvis’ first great-grandchild. At her mother’s memorial, Riley’s stuntman husband, Ben Smith-Petersen, revealed that they had their first child in 2022.
“Lisa Marie’s death has been very painful for Riley, but welcoming her baby girl has been blissful,” says the Riley source. “[Her] daughter brings every joy. She loves being a mom.”
Meanwhile, Priscilla has co-created Netflix’s Agent Elvisan animated series that debuts March 17, and she’s the subject of an upcoming biopic directed by Sofia Coppola.
Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP/Shutterstock Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley and Riley Keough
As Priscilla and Riley vie for control of Elvis’ financial legacy, Schilling hopes to see one part of the mythology remain intact.
“I would like for Graceland itself to stay as it has for the last 45 years, as a piece of history captured in time,” he says. “I’d like to see it as Elvis left it, as he decorated it, for the generations of Presley children. It’s the White House of rock and roll.”
— Reporting by Lanae Brody, Pernilla Cedenheim, Marissa Charles, Melody Chiu, Rachel DeSantis and Liz McNeil.
For all the details on the fight over Graceland, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.