A top executive overseeing Neverland Ranch tells The Daily Beast’s Gerald Posner it will not become a public Michael Jackson museum, and that the real-estate firm has received private bids from several billionaires, and has already turned down a $100 million private offer.
Neverland as the new Graceland? Although many Michael Jackson fans might love the concept, The Daily Beast has learned that it definitely is not going to happen. I spoke to a senior executive at Colony Capital, who is intimately involved in overseeing Neverland, but was not authorized to speak on the record. He revealed—for the first time—that since Jackson’s death the company has received several private bids for the 2,600-acre ranch property. The top offer so far? An even $100 million. “All of the offers are from individual billionaires,” the Colony executive told me. “Neverland is not going to be sold to a corporation and become a company retreat.”
Colony became Neverland’s owner in 2008 when it purchased the $24.5 million in debt on the property from the Fortress Investment Group, which was threatening to foreclose. Colony’s owner, Tom Barrack, a California billionaire who made his fortune buying up bad real-estate loans from troubled S&Ls in the 1980s, was personally asked by Jackson to save his home.
“If we just want to sell it—which is what we are going to do—[Jackson’s heirs] have no say, no rights.”
“We own the ranch,” the Colony executive explained, “subject to a profit participation for Michael. Our agreement was that we would get the first dollars that came out of any development, plus a nice return. Everything above that would get split, with the percentage moving in Michael’s favor as more money came in.”
When Jackson was alive, Colony had discussed the possibility of subdividing the property and selling off individual home sites, an idea the pop star strongly disliked.
Now with Michael gone, the Jackson estate inherits his rights under the Colony contract. “If we decided to change the look and feel of the place, they would have a say,” says the Colony exec. “So if we wanted to turn it into a museum and tribute to Michael, they would have to say yes. But if we just want to sell it—which is what we are going to do—they have no say, no rights.”
Colony briefly did consider the possibility of a Neverland-to-Graceland transformation. “It crossed everyone’s mind right away.” But architects and attorneys who did a fast study told them it was impossible due to the narrow two-lane access to the property, coupled with wealthy individual neighbors who would almost certainly oppose any commercial enterprise in their residential area. “Physically and logistically, we just couldn’t do it.” The Colony officer believes those hurdles would also bar any future owner from converting the ranch into a commercial shrine.
Is $100 million the right price? “We are in no rush,” says the Colony executive. “This is an appreciating asset. And there are people who have the money, and some of them will want to own the place that had belonged to Michael Jackson. I work for a billionaire who owns a similarly grand ranch. So I know that while there aren’t a lot of people who can afford this, the ones who can are finding us.”
Gerald Posner is the award-winning author of 10 investigative nonfiction bestsellers, ranging from political assassinations, to Nazi war criminals, to 9/11, to terrorism ( www.posner.com). Posner lives in Miami Beach with his wife, the author Trisha Posner.