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|Location||Los Olivos, California, United States of America|
|Owner||Estate of Michael Jackson & Colony NorthStar|
|Area||3,000 acres (1,200 ha)|
Neverland Valley Ranch (renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch) is a developed property in Santa Barbara County, California, located at 5225 Figueroa Mountain Road, Los Olivos, California 93441, first opened in 1988. It is most famous for being the home of the American entertainer Michael Jackson. Jackson named the property after Neverland, the fantasy island in the story of Peter Pan, a boy who never grows up. Michael's first encounter with the ranch came when he visited Paul McCartney, who was staying there during their filming of the "Say Say Say" video. According to La Toya Jackson, Michael expressed interest to her in someday owning the property at that time.
The ranch is located about 5 miles (8 km) north of unincorporated Los Olivos, and about eight miles (13 km) north of the town of Santa Ynez. The Chamberlin Ranch is to the west, and the rugged La Laguna Ranch, is to the north. The Santa Barbara County Assessor's office says the ranch is approximately 3,000 acres (1214 hectares).
Residence of Michael Jackson
The estate was originally known as the Zaca Laderas Ranch at the time of its purchase by the property developer William Bone in 1977. Bone renamed the estate the Sycamore Valley Ranch and moved there with his family. Bone commissioned the architect Robert Altevers to design the principal buildings on the ranch, and the pair spent two and a half years researching potential designs and ideas. The 13,000 sq ft main house was completed in 1982 with formal gardens, a stone bridge, and a four acre lake with a five foot waterfall. Bone later said that in building the house he had "...a desire to express everything I had learned in 15 years of home building...I achieved here all the things I wanted to do in my business but could not".
The entertainer Michael Jackson purchased the estate from Bone in 1988. for a sum variously reported to be 16.5 to 30 million US dollars. The property was initially purchased by a trust with Jackson's lawyer, John Branca, and his accountant, Marshall Gelfand, as trustees, for reasons of privacy. The arrangement was later rescinded by Jackson in April 1988 and he became the ultimate owner of the property. It was Jackson's home as well as his private amusement park and it contained a floral clock, numerous artistic garden statues featuring children, and a petting zoo. The amusement park included two railroads: one 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge named "Neverland Valley Railroad" with a steam locomotive named Katherine after his mother (Crown 4-4-0 (2B); built 1973 with two coaches), and the other a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge with a locomotive named C. P. Huntington made by Chance Rides. There was also a Ferris wheel, Carousel, Zipper, Octopus, Pirate Ship, Wave Swinger, Super Slide, roller coaster, bumper cars, and an amusement arcade. The master closet also contained a secret safe room for security. Jackson was also an avid art collector.
Neverland Ranch was searched extensively by police officers in connection with the People v. Jackson trial after he was charged with multiple counts of molesting a minor in 2003. Jackson was acquitted of all charges. However, Jackson stated he would never live at the property again as he no longer considered the ranch a home. He stated he felt the 70 police officers had "violated" the property in their searches. Jackson's sister, La Toya, wrote of her experience staying at the ranch during her brothers trial in her 2012 memoir Starting Over. In 2006, the facilities were closed and most of the staff were dismissed, with a spokesperson stating that this was the reflection of the fact that Jackson no longer lived there.
Reports of foreclosure proceedings alleged to have commenced against Neverland Ranch on October 22, 2007 were published. However, a spokesperson for Jackson said that the loan was merely being refinanced and Jackson (later his Estate) remained the majority stake holder, with a legal retention of 87.5% of the ranch.
On February 25, 2008, Jackson received word from Financial Title Company, the trustee, that unless he paid off $24,525,906.61 by March 19, a public auction would go forward of the land, buildings, and other items such as the rides, trains, and art. On March 13, 2008, Jackson's lawyer L. Londell McMillan announced that a private agreement had been reached with the private investment group, Fortress Investment, to save Jackson's ownership of the ranch. Before the agreement, Jackson owed three months' arrears on the property. McMillan did not reveal the details of the deal.
On May 12, 2008, a foreclosure auction for the ranch was canceled after Colony NorthStar, an investment company run by billionaire Tom Barrack, purchased the loan, which was in default. In a press release, Jackson stated, "I am pleased with recent developments involving Neverland Ranch and I am in discussions with Colony and Tom Barrack with regard to the Ranch and other matters that would allow me to focus on the future."
On November 10, 2008, Jackson transferred the title to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company, LLC, and neighbors reported immediate activity on the property, including the amusement rides being trucked along the highway. Jackson still owned an unknown stake in the property, since Sycamore Valley Ranch was a joint venture between Jackson (represented by McMillan) and an affiliate of Colony NorthStar. The Santa Barbara County Assessor's Office stated Jackson sold an unknown proportion of his property rights for $35 million.
Kyle Forsyth, Colony's project manager, describes the estate's Tudor-style buildings and savannah-like grasslands as "English country manor meets Kenya." Eventually, Colony hopes to sell the ranch, located in Santa Barbara County, in its entirety. Subdividing it, says Mr. Forsyth, "would destroy it."
Death of Michael Jackson
Following Jackson's death, press reports during June 28–29, 2009, claimed that his family intended to bury him at the Neverland Ranch, eventually turning it into a place of pilgrimage for his fans, similar to how Graceland has become a destination for fans of Elvis Presley. However, the singer's father Joseph Jackson later denied the reports. Construction equipment and gardeners entered the grounds on July 1, prompting speculation that preparations were being made for something related to Jackson's death, but local officials stated that a burial there would be only allowed if the owners of the ranch would go through a permitting process with county and state government before establishing a cemetery at the site. Jackson's 2002 will gives his entire estate to a family trust.
The ranch was the setting for two media appearances on July 2, 2009. Jermaine Jackson took The Today Show's Matt Lauer on a tour of the main house, and he was interviewed on the grounds of the house by Larry King for his show.
In July 2010, California Assemblyman Mike Davis floated the idea of California acquiring the property and running it as a state park. This idea has been introduced before, as such a park could attract thousands of Jackson fans from around the world, bringing in revenue for the state and local area. However, then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had called for the closure of many state parks due to lack of funding, and local residents oppose the idea because of the traffic congestion and other problems that a major tourist attraction would bring to this rural area.
In October 2010, reports came out that Michael Jackson's children intended to buy the property.
Following the death of Michael Jackson in 2009, the neglected Neverland Ranch fell into disrepair. Saddened by a return trip to her childhood home in 2010, Jackson's daughter, Paris, resolved to acquire and restore the property in early 2013. The amusement rides were replaced with a meditative zen garden, and a section decorated with Peter Pan, Michael Jackson's favorite fictional hero. The Jackson children intended the garden to be used for enjoyment by sick children.
In May 2015, it was announced that the Neverland Ranch would be put up for sale with an initial price tag of $100 million, but many people including fans have protested and disagreed with the decision. Jermaine Jackson, elder brother of Michael wrote an open letter to Colony NorthStar expressing his disagreement with their decision.
Due to lack of interest, as of February 2017 the asking price of the ranch has fallen to $67 million.
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