It was one of the oddest celebrity compounds in history: A mansion, a zoo and amusement park all spread over 2,800 acres in California’s Santa Barbara County, dotted with more typical star comforts like a tennis court, swimming pool and basketball court.
Real estate investment firm Colony Capital has listed Michael Jackson’s famed Neverland Ranch for $100 million, almost six years after the King of Pop’s death in June 2009. He bought the property in 1987 for a reported $19.5 million and turned it into a personal fantasy land that encompassed 22 buildings, including a 12,000-square-foot French Normandy-style main house, two guest houses, and a movie theater that had trap doors for magic shows.
Though he lived there for 15 years, Jackson had essentially lost Neverland some time ago. Colony Capital became Neverland’s managing partner in 2007 and picked up Jackson’s $23 million bank note after Jackson defaulted on it. According to Forbes, the terms of the agreement were that as Colony Capital invested money into Neverland, Jackson’s stake decreased.
Should you happen to be a serious buyer in the market for your own small fiefdom about an hour away from Oprah Winfrey’s place in Montecito, here’s what you should know:
The zoo is no more.
Neverland was once home to orangutans, baboons, an elephant, giraffes and Jackson’s pet chimpanzee, Bubbles. But those animals are all gone, and the only one remaining is a single llama. As far as we know, said llama bears no relation to the Outlaw Llamas of Arizona.
There was a train to get you around the property — it was about a quarter mile from the main house to the 50-seat movie theater — and a station house modeled after the one at Disney World. The topiary Neverland clock in front of it remains. Jackson named the steam locomotive Katherine, after his mother.
The amusement park rides are gone. When Jackson was on trial for child molestation, prosecutors alleged that he used Neverland as a lure for children. Jackson was acquitted of all charges in 2005.
In 1991, Elizabeth Taylor, one of Jackson’s closest friends, married her seventh husband, Larry Fortensky, at Neverland. A paparazzo parachuted onto the property to capture pictures of the wedding. He was promptly arrested.
It was a home not just for Jackson, but also Lisa-Marie Presley, who married Jackson in 1994. They divorced two years later. In 1995, they hosted 46 children from 17 countries for three days during a World Children’s Congress at the ranch.
The compound also had a staffed fire station, and Jackson installed at least one artificial lake. The building remains, but the station no longer employs firefighters.
Sotheby’s and Hilton & Hyland are sharing a joint listing of the ranch. They plan to vet the financial situations of potential buyers before showing the property. “We’re not going to be giving tours,” one of the real estate agents told the Wall Street Journal. The sellers have renamed the property Sycamore Valley Ranch. But even wiped of its amusement park rides and zoo animals, to many of Jackson’s fans, it will always be Neverland.