A Delaware judge this week granted a California businessman’s request to order an insurance inspection of a collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia sitting in a Nevada airport hangar pending resolution of an ownership dispute.
Richard Long is battling Nevada residents Robert Gallagher and Betty Franklin, with whom he formed a partnership to buy and exhibit the collection. Long claims that Gallagher and Franklin have refused to surrender access to the memorabilia and abide by the terms of their agreement.
“They never had any ownership, but they had possession,” said David Finger, a Wilmington attorney representing Long.
The collection, known as “Dr. Nick’s Memories of Elvis,” consists of items once owned by Dr. George Nichopolous, once a personal physician to the rock star who died of heart disease and prescription drug abuse in 1977 at his Memphis mansion. Among the items is a black doctor’s bag used by Nichopolous and containing prescription bottles bearing Presley’s name. In addition to Nichopolous’s black bag, the collection includes jewelry, guns, a laryngeal scope used to examine Presley’s throat, and a glass nasal douche “used to irrigate Elvis’ sinuses before each show.”
“Taken as a whole, it does have a lot of personality to it,” Long said outside court.
Gallagher and Franklin were no-shows at Monday’s Chancery Court hearing, despite being granted a continuance in February.
“I didn’t get the notice in time,” Gallagher said by telephone from Nevada.
Vice-chancellor Leo Strine Jr. said Gallagher, who has been representing himself, notified the court earlier Monday that he was trying to hire a Delaware lawyer.
“There’s been notice of this hearing for a long time,” said Strine, who denied a request for another continuance but gave Gallagher and Franklin 30 days to hire an attorney.
In the meantime, Long’s request to have the collection inspected for insurance purposes is “entirely reasonable,” Strine said.
Strine said both parties should have lawyers present when the insurance inspection is conducted, and that it be videotaped. He also encouraged the plaintiffs and defendants to try to find a way to talk to each other.
“I’m trying to alleviate ‘suspicious minds,”’ quipped the judge, who tentatively scheduled a trial for early fall but said the court is willing to move quicker to ensure the collection is secure.
According to the lawsuit, Nichopolous, who has collaborated with Gallagher and Franklin in past exhibitions of the collection, agreed last year to sell it to them and Long for $1 million. Long claims that he agreed to put up the $1 million, and that Gallagher and Franklin, who claimed to have a “half interest” in the collection, agreed to assign all their rights to a limited liability company he controls. Long also agreed to lend the new company $1 million to cover expenses incurred by Gallagher and Franklin, and another $1 million for operating capital, according to the lawsuit.
But within weeks of closing the deal, Gallagher said he was putting together a group to buy him out, Long claims. According to the lawsuit, a sale never developed and plans to exhibit it at the Stardust casino in Las Vegas before it closed last year fell through. In a letter, Franklin blamed Long for “tremendous losses” because of the cancellation.
In response to a question from Strine, Finger said Long is willing to walk away from the deal “in a New York minute” if he can recoup his money, and also would entertain the idea of auctioning off the collection to settle the dispute.
“Doesn’t Sotheby’s have a nasal irrigation specialist?” Strine joked. “You could probably find a buyer on eBay if need be.”
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