After being pulled off the market earlier this year, Michael Jackson’s famous Neverland Ranch now has a new buyer — Ron Burkle, who previously worked with the late pop star. The billionaire reportedly purchased the estate for $22 million.
The property — which is located outside of Santa Barbara — had been on and off the market for years. In 2015, it was listed under a new name — Sycamore Valley Ranch — for $100 million but slowly lowered its rate over time. Two years later, the price went down to $67 million, and it was relisted again for $31 million in 2019.
Jackson — who died suddenly at the age of 50 in 2009 — purchased the property for $19.5 million in 1987. The hitmaker installed fun features such as a railroad and an amusement park, which included a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round. The ranch was inspired by J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.
The property includes a swimming pool with a cabana, a basketball court, a tennis court and a movie theater. Jackson was known for throwing lavish parties there; he even hosted Kim Kardashian’s 14th birthday on the grounds.
In 1993, Jackson and his home made headlines after child sexual allegations were made against him. Since he had to defend himself against more lawsuits over the years, he died deeply in debt and faced foreclosure on the ranch in 2008.
After he defaulted on a loan, Thomas Barrack, chairman and CEO of a real estate investment firm Colony Capital LLC, which took ownership of the estate, agreed to bail out the singer and formed a joint venture with him.
Another reason as to why the home wasn't an easy sell is that HBO's documentary, Leaving Neverland, highlighted the alleged horror of what happened behind closed doors. Wade Robson and James Safechuck claimed that Jackson sexually assaulted them for years and detailed their relationship with the late Grammy winner. Robson alleged his sexual relationship with Jackson began when he was just 8 years old; he claimed that Jackson kissed him and performed oral sex on him.
For his part, Safechuck joined the "Thriller" crooner on tour, where he alleged he was taught to masturbate by Jackson. "It felt like you were bonding, in a way. The tour was the start of this sexual, like, couple relationship,” he said.
Jackson was criminally charged with abusing children but was acquitted following a trial in 2005.
However, Brad Sundberg, the technical director for Jackson, who also worked on the ranch denied that his former boss did anything wrong.
“Not in a million years did I ever see a child around Michael Jackson that looked like they had been distressed, hurt, abused,” Sundberg said in the film during an interview with producer Liam McEwan. “Neverland was such a peaceful, safe, fun place.”
Following the accusations, the Jackson estate filed a lawsuit against HBO in February 2019 for $100 million dollars.
“HBO breached its agreement not to disparage Michael Jackson by producing and selling to the public a one-sided marathon of unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man no longer here to defend himself," estate attorney Howard Weitzman previously told OK!.
“Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of Leaving Neverland, the two-part documentary, on March 3rd and 4th. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves," the network responded.
Recently, Jackson's estate won their appeal in the lawsuit over Leaving Neverland.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of Neverland's sale on Thursday, December 24.