Michael Jackson's Neverland faces demolition as buyers wary of ranch's legacy as site of child sexual abuse
“Perhaps someone may think that Neverland could be rebranded somehow, but this would be doomed to failure in my view"
After allegations of horrific child sex abuse were brought against Michael Jackson, his sprawling 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, California, was rendered vacant and faces likely demolition. Although the ranch is currently off the market, back in February, listing agents Compass said that they had potential buyers lined up to buy the property. However, the deal with the seller Colony Capital fell through. At the time when the legendary pop singer brought the ranch in 1988, it was originally known as the Sycamore Valley Ranch and cost between $19.5 million and $30 million, Daily Star reported.
Initially, after buying the estate, MJ would regularly have kids over. He even developed a private amusement park on the property, opened a petting zoo, and installed a raft of garden statues as a way to make it as appealing as possible for kids. Neverland was also equipped with three railroads, a steam locomotive named after his mother, Katherine, a Ferris wheel, rollercoaster, and amusement arcade.
The main house covers 12,600 square feet and features six bedrooms and nine bathrooms. Also are included a pool, pool house, tennis courts and three guest houses. One of the more unusual features of the property was a jungle gym, which was essentially a hollowed-out-tree installed at the ranch, surrounded by bronze animal sculptures – including a warthog, an ostrich, a hippo, an orangutan, a giraffe and a crocodile. Jackson invited terminally ill kids to play in the gym.
But the ranch was no longer crawling with children after Jackson was charged with child molesting, serving alcohol to a minor, conspiracy and kidnapping in 2003. As part of their investigation into the charges against the 'Thriller' artist, the authorities conducted extensive searches into the property and as a result, the musician was forced to move out.
At one point, with all the expensive surgeries he had performed on his body and fighting the criminal charges against him, Jackson was no longer able to make payments on his loan and as a result, entered Neverland into ownership with Colony Capital in 2008. In March last year, the property was relisted on the market for $31 million, which was less than half of what the sellers initially put it up for, which was $100 million.
Just two days after the listing appeared, an explosive documentary 'Leaving Neverland' was released, in which James Safechuck and Wade Robson said that they were sexually abused by Jackson when they were 10 and seven years old respectively. They claimed that MJ bought them jewelry in exchange for oral sex and other sexual acts. He was also accused of conducting a child wedding in a bedroom ceremony at the ranch. Jackson’s estate has repeatedly denied all allegations contained in the documentary.
Real estate expert Michael Corbett told Yahoo Entertainment at the time: “It was priced where it was in the beginning to capture a celebrity trophy buyer, someone that was willing to pay the extra money because it was Michael Jackson’s. Unfortunately now, since there’s been a lot of negative press, someone is probably not going to purchase it for that reason...now someone’s going to buy it because it’s an amazing piece of real estate."
Ruban Selvanayagam, co-founder of housebuyers Property Solvers, last year told the Daily Star the future of Neverland Ranch was not a bright one. “I suspect most of it will be demolished as I doubt many developers would want to maintain Michael Jackson's legacy after these shocking allegations," he said. “Perhaps someone may think that Neverland could be rebranded somehow, but this would be doomed to failure in my view.”