A billionaire, a former employee of Michael Jackson, has bought the pop star's former home, Neverland Ranch.
Ronald W. Burkle, co-founder of investment firm Yucaipa Companies, bought the ranch for $ 22 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
A spokesman for Mr. Burkle, who previously served as financial advisor to Mr. Jackson, said he viewed the investment as a land banking opportunity. Mr. Burkle made his first fortune buying and selling supermarkets in California. He is also a co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey franchise.
Mr. Jackson bought the ranch, a 2,700-acre property in Los Olivos, California, about 125 miles northwest of Los Angeles, in 1988 for about $ 17 million. He named it Neverland Ranch, after the mythical island house of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.
Under the direction of Mr. Jackson, the property was converted into an entertainment complex with a zoo, a train, an amusement park with a ferris wheel, and a theater with 50 seats for $ 35 million.
Recognition…Keith Srakocic / Associated Press
The property also includes a 13,000 square foot French country house as well as other buildings.
In 2008, Neverland was nearly ruled out 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 the title of the property in a joint venture with Mr. Jackson.
Prior to his death in 2009, Mr Jackson faced multiple allegations of molesting boys, with some of the acts taking place in Neverland, according to his accusers. One case was brought to trial in 2005; he was acquitted after 14 weeks. He died four years later while preparing for a series of concert dates that he hoped would revive his career. After the 2005 trial, Mr. Jackson never returned to live on his ranch.
The documentary "Leaving Neverland", which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019, sparked speculation about the allegations.
Months after the documentary was shown, a lawsuit escalated between HBO and the Jackson estate over allegations that by showing the documentary, the cable channel violated an old contract that said it would not "make derogatory comments" about it Mr. Jackson should do.
In December, HBO lost an appeal against a court ruling that Variety said allowed the estate's motion to arbitrate the dispute.
The property has been on the market since 2015, despite speculation that it could serve as a memorial to Mr. Jackson, much like Elvis Presley's Graceland. But the amusement park rides have been removed and the Sycamore Valley Ranch renamed, The Journal reported.
The price was $ 100 million in 2016, but dropped to $ 67 million the next year.
Stacy Brown, a writer on Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask, said he was close to the Jackson family and visited the ranch several times.
He said Mr. Jackson was hospitable and that the ranch had "everything". A statue of a butler contained the ranch guest book, which many famous people in Hollywood had signed, Mr. Brown said.
"It was a great place, but many will say it was a place where children were exposed to abuse and I disagree," said Mr. Brown, who witnessed the prosecution in Mr. Jackson's 2005 case. He said he never saw Mr. Jackson do anything malicious.
"What a shame it came to that and what a shame Michael is dead," he said. “The sale of Neverland is a sad day for the Jackson family. It really ends what was such an amazing legacy. "
Christina Morales contributed to the coverage.