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Neverland Ranch, former home of Michael Jackson, is sold

A former billionaire partner of Michael Jackson has bought the pop star’s former home, Neverland Ranch.

Ronald W. Burkle, the co-founder of investment firm Yucaipa Companies, bought the ranch for $ 22 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A spokesperson for Mr Burkle, who was previously Mr Jackson’s financial adviser, said he viewed the investment as a land banking opportunity. Mr. Burkle made his initial fortune buying and selling supermarkets in California. He is also the co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey franchise.

Mr. 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, from name of the mythical island of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.

Under Mr Jackson’s leadership, the property was transformed at a cost of $ 35 million into an entertainment complex, complete with a zoo, train, amusement park including a Ferris wheel and a 50-seat theater.

Credit…Keith Srakocic / Associated Press

The property also includes a 13,000 square foot French country main house, as well as other buildings.

In 2008, Neverland was nearly foreclosed after Mr. Jackson defaulted on $ 24.5 million he owed on the property. A Los Angeles real estate investment company, Colony Capital LLC, has put title to the property in a joint venture with Mr. Jackson.

Prior to his death in 2009, Mr Jackson faced several allegations that he assaulted young boys, with some of the acts occurring in Neverland, his accusers said. One case was tried in 2005; he was acquitted after 14 weeks. He died four years later while preparing for a series of concerts he hoped to revive his career. After the 2005 trial, Mr. Jackson never returned to live on his ranch.

A documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019, has rekindled speculation over the allegations.

Months after the documentary was shown, a legal dispute between HBO and Jackson’s Estate escalated over allegations that the cable channel, by showing the documentary, had violated an old contract that it “will not do anything. derogatory remark ”about Mr. Jackson.

In December, HBO lost an appeal from a court ruling that allowed the estate’s request to take the dispute to arbitration, according to Variety.

The property has been on the market since 2015, despite speculation it would be used as a memorial to Mr Jackson, similar to Elvis Presley’s Graceland. But the amusement park rides were scrapped and it was renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch, the Journal reported.

In 2016, the asking price was $ 100 million, but it fell to $ 67 million the following year.

Stacy Brown, an author of “Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask,” said he was once close to the Jackson family and has visited the ranch on several occasions.

He said Mr. Jackson was hospitable and that the ranch “had it all.” A statue of a butler contained the ranch’s guestbook, which many famous people in Hollywood had signed, Mr Brown said.

“It was a great place, but many would say it was a place where children were exposed to abuse, and I don’t disagree with that,” said Brown, who witnessed the prosecution. in Mr. Jackson’s 2005 Case. He said he had never seen Mr. Jackson do anything malicious.

“What a shame it has come to this, and what a shame that Michael is dead,” he said. “The sale of Neverland is a sad day for the Jackson family. It really ends what was such an incredible legacy.

Christina morales contribution to reports.

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