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Lisa Marie Presley's messy divorce sheds light on her downward spiral

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Lisa Marie Presley says she’s broke. (Photo: Getty Images)

Studies have shown that life gets better at 50, so here’s hoping some of that reaches Lisa Marie Presley.

Having hit that milestone age earlier this month, the only daughter of the late Elvis Presley has had her share of ups and downs — from her father’s death when she was 9, to early substance abuse issues and marriages that made for tabloid fodder. (She shared a bed with Michael Jackson after all.) But with age comes more drama for the songstress and mom of four. Not only has she blown her fortune (she says she’s $16 million in debt), but she’s locked in a bitter divorce with her fourth husband, which has led to the revelation of her extensive substance abuse issues.

Right now she’s in the middle of multiple legal battles. The first is with Michael Lockwood, whom she announced she was divorcing in June 2016 after a decade of marriage. He’s demanding a share of her fortune, which at one point was more than $100 million as her megastar dad’s sole heir. He’s also demanding she pay for some of his legal fees, and claims she’s lying about her financial woes. You’ll probably remember that following initial news of their split, Presley accused him of having “disturbing” images on his computer, and they were both stripped of custody of their 9-year-old twin daughters, Harper and Finley. (Presley’s mom, Priscilla, briefly stepped in to take custody of the girls.)

The August deposition from Presley and Lockwood’s divorce has recently been obtained by the tabloid Radar. In it, she admits to “abusing cocaine terribly” during the last few years of marriage and mixing alcohol and pills. (As a teen, Lisa Marie was treated at the Castle, a Scientology center in Hollywood, ABC News reported in 2003. She remained a member of the controversial organization until 2012.)

“The last three years I … had to go to rehab several times,” she said, later putting the number at somewhere between three and five stints in a Mexican treatment facility. “I was a mess. I couldn’t stop.” Pressed for specifically what she was taking, she said painkillers, opioids, and alcohol, but noted that booze was “not my favorite thing.”

We’d say this was a photo of Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Lockwood in happier times, but it was from 2015 — during the last year of their marriage, and she said she was “abusing cocaine terribly” during this period in addition to spending as many as five stints in rehab. (Photo: Getty Images)

“The last year of our marriage, I was abusing cocaine terribly,” she said, according to the court documents. Asked if her drug use was heavy, she said, “It was bad, yeah.” The mixing came the last few years: “I didn’t mix the pills and alcohol until, like, the last two years,” she said.

Amid this battle with Lockwood over money — and tied to it — she’s also suing a former business manager, Barry Siegel, who she alleges squandered her $100 million fortune, leaving her with only $14,000 in cash, $500,000 in credit card debt, unspecified unpaid taxes, and a mansion in England in foreclosure.

Some history: Lisa Marie inherited her father’s estate, worth an estimated $100 million, when she was 25. Thanks to Graceland and licensing of her father’s image, the business continued to make approximately $40 million a year. In 2005, after a few bad business moves, she decided to sell 85 percent of the stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises. “We took on more debt than I felt comfortable with,” she told Fortune at the time. However, her spending habits were an issue, according to the magazine, with Presley “running through $5 million to $7 million a year, amounts that closely matched the annual net income” of the business. With the sale, Presley was paid out $100 million — $53 million in cash, the erasure of a $25 million debt she owed, and stock worth $20 million. She retained the 15 percent stake and owns Graceland and its original items, despite its being run by the new company.

Lisa Marie Presley briefly lost custody of her her twin daughters, Finley and Harper, but she was with them as well as older daughter Riley Keough at an Elle event on Oct. 16, 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)

That brings us to Siegel. Lisa Marie says that he was “reckless and negligent” in his “mismanagement” of her inherited estate. She claims he spent 11 years depleting the $100 million trust she inherited after Elvis’s 1977 death for his “self-serving ambition.” However, much of the misconduct began in 2005, when Siegel sold Presley’s interest in EPE to align himself with a famous investor tied to the holding company of American Idol, she said. Presley alleged that when that didn’t work, Siegel began liquidating her assets in order to supplement the trust income without informing her, putting “his own best interests ahead of her in order to put himself in proximity to [the investor] and his celebrity circle.”

Presley also claims Siegel bought a $9 million English home using her trust’s money, pledging the trust as collateral when he couldn’t make the $6.7 million balloon payment. And by 2016, she claims, he had liquidated almost all the trust’s remaining principal — especially after the Idol holding company went bankrupt. That brought her assets to $14,000 in cash and her credit card debt to more than $500,000, according to her filings. That’s what led her to sue for breach of trust, negligence, constructive fraud, and “recompense for the tens of millions of dollars that Siegel … cost her through reckless mismanagement.”

Of course, he has a different take, according to the legal docs. He says she “twice squandered” her father’s fortune after she inherited it — counting her 2005 payout as the second time — and is “looking to blame others instead of taking responsibility for her actions.”

So what is Lisa Marie, who has released three albums since 2003, working with in addition to the $14,000 in cash and extreme amount of debt? In court documents related to her divorce, Presley listed her income as a monthly salary of $4,361 from her father’s estate, as well as $100,000 in dividends and interest from investments.

Needless to say, being in the middle of two different lawsuits isn’t helping her financial situation either — or her personal woes. But she’s always been tough. She didn’t inherit Elvis’s sneer for nothing. And on her second album, she sang, “I’ll Figure It Out,” and she will. But this no doubt has been a hard lesson. Both in love and life.

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