A billionaire former associate of Michael Jackson has purchased the pop star’s former home, Neverland Ranch.
Ron Burkle, cofounder of investment firm Yucaipa Cos., purchased the ranch for $22 million, The Wall Street Journal reported.
A spokesman for Burkle, who previously served as a financial adviser for Jackson, said he viewed the investment as a land-banking opportunity. Burkle made his initial fortune buying and selling supermarkets in California. He is also a co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey franchise.
Jackson bought the ranch, a 2,700-acre property in Los Olivos, Calif., about 125 miles northwest of Los Angeles, for about $17 million in 1988. He named it Neverland Ranch, after the mythical island home of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.
Under Jackson’s direction, the property was transformed at a cost of $35 million into an entertainment complex, complete with a zoo, a train, an amusement park that included a Ferris wheel, and a 50-seat theater.
The property also includes a 13,000-square-foot French country main house, as well as other buildings.
In 2008, Neverland was nearly foreclosed on after Jackson defaulted on $24.5 million he owed on the property. A Los Angeles real estate investment company, Colony Capital LLC, put the title for the property into a joint venture with Jackson.
Before his death in 2009, Jackson faced several allegations that he molested boys, with some of the acts occurring at Neverland, according to his accusers. One case went to trial in 2005; he was acquitted after 14 weeks. He died four years later while preparing for a string of concert dates he hoped would revive his career.
After the 2005 trial, Jackson never returned to live at his ranch.
A documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019, rekindled speculation about the allegations.
The property has been on the market since 2015, despite speculation that it would be used as a memorial to Jackson, akin to Elvis Presley’s Graceland. But the amusement park rides were removed, and it was rebranded Sycamore Valley Ranch, The Journal reported.
In 2016, the asking price was $100 million, but it dropped to $67 million the next year.