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Bob Sillerman: Impresario From American Idol To Elvis

Robert Sillerman
Robert Sillerman

It's not a word I think of often or use much: impresario. But it is the word that came to mind about 1 minute into my conversation with Bob Sillerman.

Sillerman is the CEOand Chairman of CKX , the NASDAQ-traded--for now--company that owns "American Idol". Next time you watch it, even if you say you don't, hang around to the very end. You'll see the little logo 'CKX'. Of course you also saw it, if you were able to make it to the end, on the Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice) 'special' on NBC recently. Whoa. So nobody bats a 1,000.

But back to Sillerman, the impresario. A member of the Fortune 400, he's a billionaire ,Bronx born and bred, businessman. A guy that has built and sold companies and who know owns the likes of Elvis Presleyand Muhammad Ali. Or at least the rights to their images and 'brands'. He calls them 'ubiquitous' and the way he says it, he makes you want to use a capital 'U' when you write it down.

It's Sillerman's new business. He wants to take the best of the best in entertainment or in sports--the real best--and drive their images and content to new heights. Presley perhaps the best example. Yes, Elvis still makes money and yes, thousands visit Gracelandin Memphis. But aren't their other ways to maximize 'The King'? Hotels, Cirque de Soleilshows and more 'Elvis' business ventures are on the horizon. And the same kind of thinking will power the Ali image, will manage the Beckham's careers (doesn't he play soccer of something?), and will sign other 'ubiquitous' celebrities in the months ahead.

In order to get that done, he and his partner in this venture, Simon Fuller, are taking the 'image' part of their company private, buying it back from the shareholders. It's a deal in excess of 1.3 billion dollars and one that is in the process of being closed out. They will still have a public entity. It will build the hotels and other projects that will carry the 'brand names' on the marquee.

Add something else to the Sillerman file. He helped produce Mel Brooks'hit Broadway show, "The Producers", and he's investing in Brooks' next Broadway show, "Young Frankenstein."

It's good to be the king---particularly if you own him. Yes, impresario says it just fine.

Questions? Comments? mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com