Michael Jackson’s former friend buys Jackson’s Neverland ranch for $22 million

Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch has reportedly been sold to a former friend of Jackson for a quarter of its initial asking price.

Ron Burkle, a billionaire investor recently bought the estate in Los Olivos, California, his spokesman said.

He paid USD $22 million for Neverland, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing public records.

The 2,700-acre compound was first listed for $100m in 2015.

Since then Neverland, north of Santa Barbara city, has been on and off the market, listed most recently last year for the lower price of USD $31 million.

Jackson originally paid about $19.5m for Neverland, which he named after a fictional island where children never grow up in ‎JM Barrie’s Peter Pan story.

The Thriller singer bought Neverland in 1987, making it his home during the height of his fame.

He turned the ranch into an entertainment complex, building a zoo and fairground on site, where he regularly entertained children and their families.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Neverland became the centre of various investigations into child sexual assault allegations against Jackson.

Jackson denied allegations by Santa Barbara prosecutors that he had used Neverland as a fantasy world to groom young boys.

In 2005, Jackson was tried and acquitted of allegations he abused a 13-year-old boy at the ranch.

Jackson never returned to Neverland. Four years later, in June 2009, Jackson died at another home in Los Angeles after suffering a cardiac arrest induced by a drug overdose.

Since his death Jackson has been the subject of further abuse allegations, including those made in a documentary called Leaving Neverland in 2019.

Neverland later rebranded itself as Sycamore Valley Ranch and has undergone extensive redevelopment since Jackson’s death.

Mr Burkle’s spokesman said the businessman saw the investment as a land banking opportunity.