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History / Neverland Ranch

Location: 5225 Figueroa Mountain Rd, Los Olivos, CA 93441
Size: Approximately 2, 810 acres
Employees: Approximately 70
Acquisition date: 20-03-1988

Neverland Ranch, or Neverland Valley Ranch, was owned by American pop musician Michael Jackson, although Jackson currently resides outside the United States. It is located at 5225 Figueroa Mountain Rd, Los Olivos, CA 93441, about 5 miles (8 km) north of Los Olivos, Santa Barbara County, California. It was operated as his private amusement park and home when it opened in 1988. The name Neverland came from the fictional island in the story Peter Pan.

Michael moves out of Hayvenhurst, the family's Encino home on March 20th, 1988 to the recently purchased ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley about 100 miles north of Los Angeles. The 2, 810 acres Sycamore Valley Ranch is soon renamed Neverland Valley Ranch.

History

The pop star was looking at Hope Ranch in Santa Barbara but needed a more rural environment for his menagerie. At last count, he had monkeys, llamas, snakes, birds and just about every kind of farmyard animal except a cow at his 1-acre Encino compound, where he and his family have lived since the '60s. He was buying a 2,700-acre ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley for about $ 28 million and a small hotel nearby, for his entourage, for $ 5 million, say several real estate sources.
They will have plenty of room to stretch on the remote Sycamore Valley Ranch, which was being sold by William Bone, developer of the PGA West resort in Palm Springs and scores of condos in the desert.

Bone bought the place, then known as the Zaca Laderas Ranch, in 1977 from banker Robert Easton.
Bone developed a large clubhouse at Sycamore Valley Ranch and apparently had plans to turn the property into a country club but changed his mind. The ranch has been on the market for at least a year.
Besides the clubhouse, the property has a huge house on a 32-acre home site and 50,000 oak trees.
Bone was asking $32 million, and turned down Jackson's original offer of $17 million. Escrow hasn't closed yet on the $28-million sale.

There was no news yet on whether Jackson will sell his Encino home, which he expanded in 1982. He moved the original 1,570-square-foot house to the rear of the site then for use as a recording studio and built an 11,500-square-foot house in front along with a four-car garage with 850 square feet of living space overhead.

Although Michael’s tour would keep him away from his new home for most of 1988, the purchase gave him time to refurbish it into a magical space, complete with amusement rides and a petting zoo. It was a deeply symbolic move for the 29-year-old man who saw himself as a “Peter Pan” figure, a committed champion for the happiness of children.

Jackson created a child-like fantasy world where he lived with Bubbles the chimpanzee, exotic snakes, fairground rides, a candy shop and a private railway.

Sycamore Valley Ranch (1988)
Sycamore Valley Ranch as it was presented in the real estate brochure from 1988.

Background

Sitting as a high sand dune in a valley, Neverland is located about five miles (8 km) north of Los Olivos (about eight miles north of the town of Santa Ynez), in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Long before Michael Jackson made Neverland his home, the area surrounding Neverland was made of working ranches. Today, the neighbourhood is made of vineyards. Neverland, which is over 2,800 acres (11 km²) in size, contains, among other things, a zoo and a theme park, with a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, and bumper cars. As with much of Neverland, little is known about the value of Michael Jackson's former home. In early 2004, news program Entertainment Tonight estimated Neverland Ranch to be valued at approximately $12.0 million. However, the Santa Barbara County assessor's office believes it is worth $6 million. Forbes estimates the ranch may be worth a lot more than that.

While Neverland was open, it served as the venue of numerous parties held by Michael Jackson. In 1991, Jackson hosted friend Elizabeth Taylor's wedding to Larry Fortensky. On September 13, 2003, he held a grand party to raise money for Oneness, the Make-A-Wish foundation, and pop artist Romero Britto's Brazilian charity, "E Ai Como E Que Fica?" It was dubbed "Michael's mother of all parties". According to a Jackson spokeswoman, groups of children continued to visit the ranch during the 2005 trial, but Jackson had little time to meet with them. After the trial ended in June 2005, Michael Jackson made his primary residence in Bahrain.

Some allege that children at Neverland were reckless at times and were not bound by many rules. Children were told to follow a few rules, and were allowed to go about Neverland at will. The children were free to eat whatever and whenever they wanted and sleeping hours were not very regular. Kiki Fournier, a former housekeeper, compared Neverland to Pinocchio's Pleasure Island.

Neverland Ranch

Police searches

In both 1993 and 2003, Jackson was accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards young boys who had spent a great deal of time at Neverland. These accusations resulted in police searches of the ranch.

The 1993 allegations did result in criminal charges and preliminary hearings, but the 2003 allegations lead to a trial in which Jackson was found not guilty on all charges. In connection with the 2005 molestation trial, detectives searched Neverland twice. The first search was conducted on November 18, 2003 by more than sixty police officers. The second search took place a year later on December 3, 2004.

Neverland Ranch

Neverland's main mansion closed

After the 2003 police search of Neverland, Jackson decided he would no longer reside at the ranch, and lived at a number of other residences including one in Beverly Hills, but returned to Neverland in late 2004. "I won't live there ever again," he said. "It's a house now. It's not a home anymore. I'll only visit." When the 2005 molestation trial came to an end, Jackson left the United States and Neverland for a stay in Bahrain.

Speculation was rampant about the fate of Neverland, but on March 16, 2006, the main house was officially closed and most of the employees were terminated without benefits or pensions (though approximately $400,000 in back wages were paid). However, all workers finally were compensated under full compliance of law. It was announced that Jackson would not be returning to the United States in the foreseeable future. According to his spokesperson, Raymone Bain, Jackson closed his house for good.

Neverland Ranch

Animals still at Neverland are currently being cared for by a Neverland employee. Despite allegations of animal mistreatment, the driver of a delivery truck that provided Neverland's animals with food stated, "The animals are well taken care of...". The County Of Santa Barbara removed nearly all of the animals. USDA investigators echoed the same beliefs when they found no credible evidence to suggest that mistreatment claims were true.

In July of 2005, a month after the 2005 acquittal of Jackson, a Jackson spokesman told a German newspaper that Michael may build a Disneyland style home near Berlin, based on the German fairytale castle Neuschwanstein.
On August 25, 2006, a wildfire burned about 40 acres of the ranch, coming within a quarter-mile of the main residence.

Neverland Valley Ranch sold

Michael Jackson has transferred his Neverland Valley Ranch to a company. On Monday, November 11th 2008 he filed a grant deed on the property that makes the new owner an entity called the Sycamore Valley Ranch Co. LLC.

Reportedly, Sycamore Valley Ranch Co. is a joint venture between Michael Jackson and an affiliate of Colony Capital LLC. Tom Pearson said the deed did not indicate who owns Sycamore. A listing on the California secretary of state's Web site says the company filed with the state in June 2008. It does not identify its owners, but the company has the same Century City address as Colony Capital LLC. Colony Capital is a Los Angeles-based real estate investment company run by billionaire Tom Barrack. It owns several properties in Las Vegas, including the Las Vegas Hilton. Actually the Neverland property was called Sycamore Valley Ranch before Michael Jackson bought it in 1988 and was a working cattle ranch owned by Bill Bone.

Currently it is not known what the future of the 2,500-acre property in Santa Barbara County will be.

Satellite Images of Neverland


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Updated: 19/03/2015 7:40 PM

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