Monday, July 22, 2024

Michael Jackson’s Former Neverland Ranch Threatened by Wildfire

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Rampant wildfires in southern California have forced evacuations in Santa Barbara County, including the area that is home to Michael Jackson’s former Neverland Ranch.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CAL FIRE), the Lake Fire — currently spanning over 13,000 acres and one of 21 wildfires currently burning in California — was zero percent contained as of Sunday morning. 

The blaze forced the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department to evacuate residents throughout the county, including the 5000 block of Figueroa Mountain Road where Michael Jackson’s former home is, ABC News reports. The Mercury News adds that the western edge of the Lake Fire was just one mile from the Neverland Ranch property as of Saturday night.

Jackson purchased the 2,700-acre property in 1988 for $17 million and spent an estimated $35 million turning the estate into an amusement park complete with a zoo, Ferris wheel, a theater, a train station, go-kart track and its own fire department.

However, in the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland, two men claimed Jackson sexually abused them as children on the Neverland property. The alleged sexual abuse of another child on the property resulted in Jackson’s molestation trial in 2005; following the singer’s acquittal, Jackson moved his residence from the Neverland Ranch, but remained owner of the property.

Following Jackson’s death, Neverland Ranch was first listed by real estate agents in 2015 for $100 million. Two years later, that price was cut to $67 million, with several million dollars pumped into the property as it fell into disrepair. In 2019, days before the release of Leaving Neverland, the property’s asking price was dramatically reduced again, to $31 million, while the estate itself — now stripped all of its theme park adornment — was rebranded as the Sycamore Valley Ranch to further separate it from Jackson.

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In December 2020, the property was sold for $22 million to businessman Ron Burkle, the billionaire who previously served as Jackson’s advisor on business matters in the mid-2000s, when the singer struggled with debt due to his lavish lifestyle. 

Coincidentally, just weeks ago, the Neverland Ranch was used as a “major filming location” for the upcoming Michael Jackson biopic, with the property undergoing a cosmetic refurbishment to restore it to its Jackson-era glory, SFGate reported.



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