Westgate wins in Elvis dispute, but still holds his property

Well, the $2 million question has finally been answered at Westgate Las Vegas.

That’s the answer: $2 million.

The question, for the past two years, has been how much Westgate is owed — if anything — in a legal dispute centered on its ill-fated Elvis Presley attraction and stage show. The production “The Elvis Experience” ran from April to May 2015, while the 28,000-square-foot “Graceland Presents: Elvis the Exhibition” was open from April 2015 to February 2016.

The two-team parlay of Elvis attractions was never profitable (hence the untimely closings). The abrupt shuttering of the show and exhibit sparked a messy lawsuit between Westgate and third-party production company Exhibit A Circle LLC, which was contracted to stage the Elvis events.

Exhibit A Circle made the decision to shut down both the exhibit and the stage show. As a result, Westgate claimed in court papers that it suffered serious financial losses as Exhibit A Circle was in breach of its 10-year operating contract with the hotel.

On June 27, after a lengthy legal back-and-forth, Westgate was awarded about $2.25 million in damages by a federal arbitrator.

Still to be determined is a separate legal dispute between the Graceland-headquartered Elvis Presley Enterprises and Westgate. The hotel still has possession of the memorabilia displayed at the exhibition, including the American Eagle jumpsuit Elvis wore onstage at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1972, the tunic he wore on an opening night in July 1969, a telegram he sent to Barbra Streisand on opening night at the International, the jumpsuit he wore in the film “Viva Las Vegas” and all of the original Sun records Presley recorded with Sam Phillips.

As Westgate Chief Operating Officer Mark Waltrip said this week, those items will remain in the resort’s possession until Elvis Presley Enterprises pays a multimillion-dollar bond to release the property, or there is a final ruling in the case, which was filed in Clark Country District Court in 2016.

The showroom where the “Elvis Experience” was staged — and the real Elvis once performed — is currently home to just one show: The Prince tribute Purple Reign. The only Elvis presence in the hotel is the bronze statue near the entrance, trumpeting The King’s long headlining run at the International and Las Vegas Hilton.

The statue, like the dispute involving the folks at Graceland and Westgate, is at a standstill.

Fostering a jam

Dubbing a performance at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts a “hidden gem” might seem odd. But the Ronnie Foster Trio is ready to light up Cabaret Jazz at 2 p.m. Sunday. Foster is a master of the Hammond B-3 organ, having backed the likes of Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West and David Sanborn in a five-decade career. He’s joined by guitarist Jake Langley and drummer Jess Gopen.

Foster also spent 15 years backing George Benson onstage and in the studio, composing the song “Lady” on Benson’s groundbreaking album, “Breezin.’ “ Foster played organ on “Summer Soft” on Wonder’s 1976 blockbuster, “Songs in the Key of Life.” The 67-year-old Foster, formerly music director for Human Nature at the Venetian, still plays basketball regularly. The court, like the organ, remains his key of life.

Make it a date

Today is the 75th birthday of my longtime friend, colleague and soul brother Norm Clarke, who manned this space for 17 years before I took over about a year ago. On Wednesday, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman presented Norm with a proclamation naming today Norm Clarke Day in Las Vegas, and we’ll be celebrating his natal date later on at the Copa Room at Bootlegger Bistro.

And, I am also to be honored with a day named for me, just after I change my name to August Fifth …

All that Gaz?

Cirque du Soleil’s majority owner, TPG Partners, seems in a purchasing mode after acquiring the Blue Man Group this week. A title that might be available: “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace, which has just shed Base Entertainment as a production partner after settling a two-year lawsuit.

This is me just mulling in public, but TPG and Cirque officials have been kicking the tires at the Spiegeltent lately. Maybe they just really love watching the show, but everyone — including the Gazillionaire — has a price.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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