Michael Jackson’s name is back in headlines thanks to HBO’s two-part documentary Leaving Neverland that chronicles the stories of two alleged sexual abuse survivors and the complicated feelings that surfaced after both men became fathers to their own boys.
Jackson and his finances, including his very public debt, continued to make headlines even after his death in 2009, including his former home, Neverland Ranch, and it’s tumultuous time spent on the real estate market.
The estate was put back on the market just days before the controversial documentary dropped. The 2,689-acre Santa Ynez, Calif. estate was once home to an amusement park and zoo, though both of those features have long since been removed. The current asking prices is $31 million, a hefty drop from its original listing price of $100 million when it first came to market in 2015. Neverland hit the market again in 2017 for a $67 million price tag but again remained unsold.
The estate, now known as the Sycamore Valley Ranch, is located about 40 miles outside Santa Barbara. The complex offers a 12,500-square-foot main house, three guest houses, and several other buildings. The house has six bedrooms, while the property surrounding it boasts a lighted tennis court, a train depot and railroad system, a movie theater, an arcade, and an entertainment pavilion.
Neverland was originally purchased in 1988 by Jackson; though sources vary on what the actual sale price was, it was likely bought for between $17 and $30 million. Upkeep at the compound cost Jackson between $5-10 million in maintenance fees every year. After the initial purchase, he spent $35 million remodeling the property into his own mini private theme park he deemed “NeverLand” after the fantasy island in the story of Peter Pan. Jackson needed large enough grounds for his monkeys, llamas, snakes, birds, and other animals, and the “theme park” turned out to be just the place.
The King of Pop used Neverland as collateral for a loan and defaulted. In 2008, just one year before his death, a foreclosure auction on the estate was canceled after an investment firm, Colony Capital LLC, purchased the loan. Thus, the home has been on and off the market and has yet to find its new owner.
In 2013, Jackson’s kids wanted to restore Neverland and use it as a safe haven for sick children. The kids, led by middle-child Paris, then 15, were determined to rebuild the compound to its former glory. Despite the fact that Jackson’s siblings and parents never visited Neverland after his death, his kids kept going back, holding out hope that they could transform it back to a place of beauty and wonder.
During that same year it was reported that Lady Gaga wanted to help Jackson’s kids financially with their restoration efforts, but ultimately, nothing ended up happening. In December of 2012, Gaga bought as many as 55 items at a sale of Michael Jackson memorabilia. “The 55 pieces I collected today will be archived and expertly cared for in the spirit and love of Michael Jackson, his bravery, and fans worldwide,” she tweeted at the time.
Neverland Ranch was the scene of an intense media circus and staged protests by Jackson supporters during the singer’s criminal trials for sexual abuse allegations. Jackson was acquitted of all charges.