It’s always nice when you get a sale, especially when it‘s 78 million dollars. According to the Wall Street Journal, billionaire Ron Burkle, a onetime associate of Michael Jackson bought his infamous “Neverland Ranch.” The property is located about 40 miles from Santa Barbara in Los Olivos, California, and was first listed for $100 million in 2015. After going on and off the market for years and undergoing several price cuts it was listed for $31 million last year. Jackson originally paid about $19.5 million for the ranch in 1987 and used the property to make his wildest dreams come true.
Jackson made Neverland Ranch his adult childhood fantasy home equipped with a private amusement park. It was of course named after the fantasy world in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” about a boy who never grows up. The singer had the means to make his wildest dreams come true and installed a railroad, Ferris wheel, and a merry-go-round onto the property. He also had orangutans and an elephant. Unfortunately, the ranch has a dark side. Jackson was accused of molesting young boys on the property as far back as 1993. The singer skated by many accusations until the 2003 documentary Living with Michael Jackson. The documentary includes footage of Jackson holding hands with and cradling a young teenager that he shared a bed with. Jackson issued a statement denying any wrongdoing but the film sparked a criminal investigation. As a result Jackson went to trial in 2005 but was acquitted of all charges. He also settled another allegation of molestation at the Ranch for $20 million. After Jackson died in 2009, the property was rebranded as Sycamore Valley Ranch and the amusement rides have since been removed.
The ranch was owned by Jackson’s estate and co-owned with a fund managed by real-estate investment trust Colony Capital. Per WSJ, amid financial struggles, Jackson defaulted on a loan backed by Neverland so Colony Capital bought the note in 2008 making the property’s title a joint venture. The ranch spans about 2,700 acres and includes over 20 structures, including several guesthouses, a swimming pool with a cabana, a basketball court, a tennis court, a 50-seat movie theater, and a 12,000-square-foot Normandy-style mansion.
Burkle served as an adviser to the singer on business matters while he was working to fix his financial crises in the mid-2000s. He is the co-founder of the investment firm Yucaipa Companies and co-owns the private club Soho House. According to WSJ, a spokesman for Burkle described the transaction as “a land bank opportunity.” Burkle is a resident of Montana, and already owns roughly 1,000 acres in Oak Glen, California. He saw Neverland Ranch while on a plane but the property had been taken off the market and was not publicly listed at the time. Burkle called Tom Barrack, founder of Colony Capital, directly and asked if he would sell it. Hopefully he brings some sage when he moves in.