If pop music had an address, I’d venture it would be Neverland Ranch. The long-time home of the late Michael Jackson, the 2,700-acre property, located in California’s Santa Barbara County, is irrevocably associated with the King of Pop: its sizable petting zoo, Ferris wheel, and full-scale arcade speak volumes to Jackson’s child-like approach to life and music. (It’s the equivalent of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, only with more llamas and goats and less gold records.) Now, you can own a piece of pop music history, as Neverland is about to hit the auction block with an asking price of a mere $60 million.
According to Forbes, the property is currently managed by billionaire Tom Barrack’s Colony Capital firm, who took over Neverland’s estimated $23 million debt from Jackson himself in late 2007. Since then, Colony Capital have poured in some $5 million a year into the property’s upkeep, which, combined with the original debt, comes to a $50 million investment in just seven years.
Reached for comment by Forbes, an unnamed Jackson family representative said they are distraught at the possibility of losing Michael Jackson’s beloved home, which he purchased in 1988. “We are frustrated, bitterly disappointed, and saddened that it has come to this … Sadly, Michael lost control of Neverland during his life as a result of advice from a former manager.”
Apparently, Barrack only took over the property as a personal favor to Jackson. In early 2008, shortly after the deal closed, Colony and Jackson entered into a joint venture: “For every dollar the company invested in the property, its equity would increase.” That means that while Jackson — and later his estate following his June 2009 death — still retained a stake of the property, that percentage would eventually decrease over the term of the joint venture.
“Don’t have me do this … unless you’re really interested in building a program going forward to create some revenue for yourself,” Barrack recounts telling Jackson in the book Michael Jackson, Inc: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of a Billion-Dollar Empire.
So, the question begs, why not just make the money back by turning Neverland into a Graceland-esque tourist attraction? Well, as Forbes notes, the property isn’t exactly accessible by interstates, and the narrow mountain roads could never accommodate that much traffic. In addition, the Jackson estate, who has generated an estimated three quarters of billion dollars in the last five years, can’t exactly foot the bill either. They’re currently in the midst of appealing a $702 million IRS bill.
“The Estate explored numerous options, including a purchase,” said the Jackson family representative. “But financial, land use and zoning restrictions have made all of the proposed options prohibitive given our duty as Executors to be fiscally responsible in protecting and growing the assets of the Estate for Michael’s children.”
Below, enjoy a tour of the property as you try and figure out a way to sell your soul.