Neverland: inside Michael Jackson's gigantic mansion
The world's best selling artist during the year of his death, Michael Jackson left a strong mark on worldwide culture with over 350 million records sold. His most significant mark on real estate became the 3,000 acre Neverland Ranch, named after the famed island in Peter Pan and inspired by Disneyland. Featuring a pool, multiple buildings and once its own theme park, the property is now on the market for $67 million.
Located in Los Olivos, California, the estate was first known as the Zaca Laderas Ranch when it was purchased by property developer William Bone in 1977. Its name then became the Sycamore Valley Ranch and architect Robert Altevers was hired to design the ranch's main buildings. Its main, 1.200 square meter house was built in 1982 with formal gardens, a stone bridge, a lake and a five foot waterfall.
Jackson purchased the estate from Bone in 1988 for somewhere between $20 and $30 million according to various sources. In addition to the main buildings and lakes, the newly named Neverland Ranch now also included a private theme park with various rides including a Ferris wheel. A railroad was also built within the ranch operated by two locomotives. Its train station building featured a floral clock and formal garden reminiscent of Disney's Alice in Wonderland labyrinth.
Roughly 40 miles from Santa Barbara, the Neverland Ranch acted both as Jackson's main residence as well as his private theme park. In total, there are currently twenty two structures on the property, which include the main house but also a petting zoo, various building within its gardens that are styled in a Disney-like manner.
The King of Pop lived at the property for nearly 20 years, hosting events such as Elizabeth Taylor's wedding in 1991. Following his wildly publicized molestation trial and extensive searches by the police at his property, he stopped leaving in Neverland in 2005. The property then stopped being maintained at the same standards.
As Jackson failed to repay a $24 million loan on the ranch in 2008, the property became owned by a joint venture of Jackson's fund and Colony Capital. The latter paid $23.9 million to enter into the join venture and was operated by billionaire Trump ally Thomas Barrack. As the fund was preparing to stage a comeback tour for the singer, Jackson passed away.
At the time of his death, Jackson had nearly $570 million in assets according to a 2007 audit of his financial condition with the bulk of this being made up by his 50% in Sony/ATV as well as other real estate properties. The King of Pop had debts of $331 million at the same time. Since his death, Jackson's estate earned near $2 billion from his copyrights and sale of shares in ATV.
Through its investment, Colony NorthStar is reportedly now the largest shareholder in the newly named Sycamore Valley Ranch. Despite the house having fallen into disrepair after Jackson's departure, the private equity fund redeveloped and rebranded the property. Its amusement park, exotic animals and private fire department were scrapped from the property leaving just a llama on the ranch.
The ranch's current layout includes 22 structures with a six-bedroom main house that comes complete with attached staff quarters, a four bedroom guest house as well as second guest house with two bedrooms. The main house stretches over 1,200 square meters and sits amidst the ranch's formal gardens and lakes.
Inside, an open, modern style typical of an American ranch was opted for. This includes a fireplace, tall, windows that open onto a gigantic park, dark wood and leather furniture. The clubhouse feeling that the original developers had thought of for the ranch are now realized in what has become one of America's most exclusive properties.
A key, unique selling point of the property is her 50-seat movie theatre that shows the entertainment business roots of the property. Neverland's train station also remains and whilst a railway continues to circle the ranch, locomotives no longer run on the tracks.
In addition to the movie theatre, another key amenity of the ranch is its custom built, extensive swimming pool. Built for enjoyment, it features sun loungers around the pool as well as a diving board. A guest house, which can be used as a changing room can also be found immediately near the pool. "Our seller is not encouraging a lot of showings." said one of the property's realtors. "We're not going to be giving tours."
The ranch's long list of features also includes a professional tennis court near the house, amidst its numerous guest houses and buildings. In 2015, the property was put on the market amidst IRS conflicts with Jackson's estate at an asking price of $100 million. Since, it was, however, lowered to $67 million, which continues to make it one of the most expensive houses in America.
In total, there are 16 bedrooms on the property with 29 bathrooms and it also includes a dancing studio. "Surrounded by manicured lawns, gardens, and magnificent trees, as well as a gorgeous lake with waterfall and swans, boat stops and beach, the house has an expansive covered outdoor entertaining area with a copper Santa Maria-style woodburning barbecue and a full kitchen." raves its real estate listing.
"It's a walk-in right now. It's beautiful. The owners have done an amazing job." another realtor told Forbes when the ranch first came on the market. Indeed, Colony Capital extensively invested into the property to restore it over the years. Controlling over $60 billion in private equity assets, Colony Capital is run by Thomas Barrack, an American billionaire who served as chairman of Trump's inaugural committee.
Named by Fortune in 2007 as the year's best real estate developer, Barrack's fund invested into a number of distressed properties over the years as well as known brands, such as the Costa Smeralda resort in Italy. Having started his career as a lawyer, he later worked in Saudi Arabia on construction projects before coming back to the US to work for Texas billionaire, Robert Bass.
In the 1980s, he met with Trump whilst negotiating the Plaza Hotel deal and the two have reportedly remained friends ever since. Other assets controlled by Barrack include the French winery, Chateau Lascombes as well as a private winery in California called Happy Canyon Vineyard according to the media.
The King of Pop was born in Indiana in 1958, the eight of ten children in a working class family. His music career started as part of the group Jackson 5 made up of him and his brothers, which gradually found its way to the Billboard Hot 100 through singles such as ABC in 1970.
Jackson later broke out on his own, releasing albums such as Thriller in 1982, which smashed all previous record sales records with over 66 million discs sold. This, coupled with Jackson having a $2 royalty on each record sold, catapulted him to a net worth of over $200 million.
In 1985, Jackson acquired the publishing rights to ATV Music Publishing for $47.5 million, a company that had gathered rights to close to 4,000 songs. In 1995, ATV merged with Sony's music publishing division, netting Jackson $95 million and 50% of the newly formed company. Following his death, his shares in ATV/Sony Music were sold by his estate for close to $900 million.