Michael Jackson's 'Neverland' Remains, Its Future Uncertain

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Michael Jackson-Neverland
Derrik J. Lang/The Associated PressA light fixture with tributes to singer Michael Jackson on the property outside the gate to the Neverland Ranch.

By Derrik J. Lang

LOS OLIVOS, Calif. -- From outside the gates of Neverland Ranch, it appears as if Michael Jackson's former home and fantasyland has been frozen in time. The backyard circus is long gone, but heartfelt notes placed by saddened fans at the property's entrance remain intact five years after Jackson's death. And visitors are still making the pilgrimage. "I figured it would just be a closed gate, but I still wanted to see it for myself," said James Chen of Seattle, a fan who stopped outside Neverland during a recent road trip with his father.

While many Jackson ventures are thriving after his death, including a new album and Cirque du Soleil shows, there's not been similar movement at Neverland, despite rumors the property could be transformed into a Graceland-like homage or sold to the highest bidder. Caroline Luz, spokeswomen for Colony Capital LLC, the real estate firm that bailed Jackson out after he defaulted on the $24.5 million he owed on Neverland, said the Santa Ynez Valley property about 150 miles north of Los Angeles is being maintained, but she declined further comment.

The estate was built in 1981 by real estate developer William Bone, who called it Sycamore Valley Ranch. Jackson paid $19.5 million for the hilly, oak- and sycamore-studded property in 1988 and rechristened it Neverland after Peter Pan's island dwelling. He soon added such over-the-top amenities as a zoo and small amusement park. For nearly 20 years, Neverland was both Jackson's home and a pop culture landmark.

It's where Elizabeth Taylor lavishly married Larry Fortensky in 1991; where Oprah Winfrey famously interviewed Jackson live in front of 90 million viewers in 1993; and where then-wife Lisa Marie Presley and Jackson welcomed children from around the globe ahead of the United Nations' 50th anniversary in 1995. Jackson later turned his back on Neverland after his 2005 acquittal on charges he molested children at the ranch, opting to live elsewhere in the world until his death in 2009.

"I guess they ruined it for my dad," Jackson's eldest son, Prince, told a civil court jury last year. With no crush of fans or media throngs in years, and the amusement park just a whirling memory, Neverland's future remains unclear.


During a recent stop outside the property, a landscaper could be seen zipping along the driveway in a red buggy as a guard manned the security shack at the front gate. The wireless router inside was named "SVR Security," a nod to the property's original name.

"It has been really quiet," said local real estate broker William Etling in his office a few miles away in the wine-tasting town of Los Olivos. "There hasn't been any noise about stuff happening out there. I'm surprised they haven't sold it to someone else already."

Etling, author of the Santa Ynez Valley tell-all "Sideways in Neverland," wondered who the buyer of the $35 million, 2,600-acre property might be when a nearby 3,250-acre ranch recently sold for $22 million.

His only guess: Someone who really likes the King of Pop.

Associated Press Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.

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havingfun8910

Hey if every MJ fan gave $5.00 They could pay off the debt and open it! SIMPLE!!!!!!

June 21 2014 at 11:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to havingfun8910's comment
ccezanne6

I love the idea but the property would have to be maintained and the property taxes and mortgage would have to be paid on time.

June 22 2014 at 12:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jmoore1248

Rename it pedophile acres lol.

June 21 2014 at 9:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
moooooooooochelle

JERRY SANDUSKY...JOHN WAYNE GACY...ARE PROUD MEMBERS

June 21 2014 at 9:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to moooooooooochelle's comment
miriamisrael1

your father too

June 21 2014 at 9:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
philipmemm

i have got to be honest, the little kid statues everywhere is a bit creepy.. I believe mike never had a childhood. i watched an interview where he said everyday he would drive by a park on his way to the studio "work" and when he would see all the children playing,, he would cry. It never mattered how much money he had, because money cant buy your childhood back.. i think he tried to anyway, and it just came off CrEePyY! I seriously dont believe he was sexually into kids, but he did want to be their friends and play with them and it sure as hell came off very very awkward...

June 21 2014 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to philipmemm's comment
ccezanne6

Michael was a big kid himself. Nothing more, nothing less. He wanted to recreate his childhood.

June 21 2014 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tuhloola11

Bulldoze it, with La Toya inside !!!!

June 21 2014 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sounder

This place will be bulldozed over at some point.

June 21 2014 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KILO ROCK BRAVO

Exactly how many times was he convicted of criminal activity?, I forget but I know it was proved over and over again in trustworthy legal documentation, like uh The Philidelphia Enquirer, and multiple supermarket newspaper expose pages. I mean if accuse someone that many times the general publics access to the truth can't be wrong, can it?

June 21 2014 at 6:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
fordmdtguy

Got to love it .... The dude was a total sexual pervert with children... The media drug his name through the mud and exposed the creep for what he was.. a total SICKO...The public was getting tired of this sexual nut bag. THEN he dies and the media and eveyone goes WAAAAAH boo hoo hoo hoo he died oh he was a such a talent, such a good guy etc.. etc.. etc.. it was sickening then and sickening now, Make a public park out of it.. ******* rename it for sure and banish it from memory like Jackson should be..

June 21 2014 at 6:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fordmdtguy's comment
Billy Lthr

yes but the charges were not true like all you said is not true , even the one who accused him has since come forward and admitted he lied because his father wanted money. sadly idiots like you rush to judgement with no proof . YOur mind is the only sicko I see

June 21 2014 at 7:03 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Billy Lthr's comment
ccezanne6

you tell him Billy Lthr.

June 21 2014 at 11:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
Nika Khwikball

Is it for sale? Of course I'd change that tennis court into a FABULOUS KHWIKBALL COURT. Wish Michael was here to share the play with me!!! Scott Cloran, Khwikball Inventor

June 21 2014 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Nika Khwikball's comment
donbanf

I wonder the same thing. Is it for sale? I read earlier on AOL that Jackson's estate is making a ton of money and it's paying off his many debts. Perhaps they could pay this off and sell it and be rid of it. I don't imagine the family wants to fix it up and reopen it.

June 21 2014 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
winky_dink

That pervert had the money to send thousands of little kids to Disney World if he truly wanted to make children happy. But as we all know he found that is was much less likely to get caught being a sexual degenerate if you build your own theme park in your backyard. What a slimy slug Jackson turned out to be.

June 21 2014 at 4:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to winky_dink's comment
ccezanne6

Winky, have you looked in a mirror lately? You're describing yourself hun!

June 21 2014 at 11:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply