Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, California, may soon get a new owner.
Forbes reports that real estate investment firm Colony Capital, which owns equity in Neverland, is selling the property. The firm took control after paying $23.5 million in November 2008. At that time, the King of Pop was facing mounting debts; this was also just when the real estate market bubble burst, making Jackson’s financial standing with the property even shakier.
According to Bloomberg, the ranch is assessed at $30.3 million by Santa Barbara County, a value limited to 2 percent annual increases under California tax laws. Thomas Barrack Jr. of Colony Capital LLC wouldn’t list the asking price for Neverland at this time, but Thomas LePley, a broker associate with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Los Olivos, notes that real estate in the area has recovered to almost pre-recession levels.
“I’d say it’s worth $35 million to $50 million, depending on what they do with it,” he said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. “Barrack has cleaned it up and returned it to perfect condition. It had been neglected.”
“We are frustrated, bitterly disappointed and saddened that it has come to this,” a rep for Jackson’s estate told Forbes. “Sadly, Michael lost control of Neverland during his life as a result of advice from a former manager.” While the Jackson estate could have purchased it back — and Forbes notes the Jackson estate has brought in more than $750 million since the star’s death in 2009 — but Neverland is a huge, ongoing expense, requiring millions of dollars in upkeep. The executors said it is their duty “to be fiscally responsible in protecting and growing the assets of the Estate for Michael’s children.”
The Neverland Ranch was named after the island in J.M. Barrie’s story of Peter Pan, a boy who never grows up. It’s a 2,680-acre property is in the Santa Ynez Valley, a region known for wineries and high-end celebrity homes. In 2003, the estate contained 22 buildings, including everything from regular guesthouses to a movie theater, as well as the famous private theme park. Its size alone makes it of great value, but Bloomberg points out that the property is zoned for agriculture, so turning it into a tourist attraction or multiple properties would be very difficult.
“It’s not a development opportunity,” Barrack said in an interview last week at Bloomberg’s Los Angeles office. “It’s not Graceland. It’s not a subdivision.”