Ah, just when you thought O.J. and Britney’s antics would keep the Gloved One out of the news, he returns. Michael Jackson was facing losing his beloved ranch Neverland in Santa Ynez, Califonia earlier this week. The King of Pop owed an amazing $24.5 million on the 2,500 acre ranch, but has since worked out a private deal Fortress Investment Group, LLC to keep his property, which was set to be auctioned off on March 19th.
Originally owned by William Bone, Michael bought the Neverland Ranch in 1988 and for a while, it was the happiest place on Earth, well, second to Disneyland. It had everything – a zoo, a Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a zipper, a spider (the ride, not the arachnid), a super slide, wave runner, sea dragon, kiddy roller coaster, and bumper cars. Michael named the ranch after the fictional island found in the story of Peter Pan, where children never grow up (much as Michael hasn’t).
In addition to inviting children to the ranch, it was also the 2003 site of Liz Taylor and Larry Fortensky’s wedding. In 2003, Michael held a huge party to raise money for Oneness, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and a Brazilian charity.
Michael was accused of inappropriate behavior towards children in both 1993 and 2003. The first suit was settled out of court, but the second one went to trial with detectives searching Neverland Ranch twice for evidence. Michael was acquitted of all ten counts, but after the trial ended, Michael moved to Bahrain with his children.
Valued at about $12 million, the Neverland Ranch was left to decay with Michael’s absence. There were allegations that staff went months without receiving payment. At one point, it was believed there were 69 workers at the ranch, but they were all eventually dismissed. Michael moved in some family members to live there and a local vet added animal caretakers until all the animals were eventually removed from the zoo.