Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner and billionaire investor Ron Burkle has paid $22 million for the estate once known as Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.

The 2,700-acre estate named after the magical Peter Pan universe where children do not grow up was first listed for $100 million in 2014 and has been on and off the market since since then. Jackson first bought it in 1987 for $19.5 million and built it to look like an amusement park — it once had a Ferris Wheel, a mini-railroad, waterfalls, a movie theater and a zoo full of elephants, giraffes and chimpanzees.

The ranch, which is located 40 miles from California’s Santa Barbara in Los Olivos and has been rebranded as Sycamore Valley Ranch, was cut in price to $67 million in 2017, and then slashed again in 2019 to $31 million.

Its persistent connection to scandal and child sexual assault allegations took a permanent toll on its real estate value. While Jackson was cleared on charges of bringing a 13-year-old boy to the Neverland Ranch and molesting him in 2005, more men came out with accusations of being sexually assaulted as children by Jackson after his death in 2009.

While the rides and zoo were later taken away, the estate still has a 12,000-square-foot, Normandy-style mansion and 22 other structures like a swimming pool, a tennis court and a pool house. Compass’s Kyle Forsyth and Suzanne Perkins once held the listing but the latest sale took place off the market.

Prior to the sale, the ranch was co-owned by Jackson’s estate and real estate investment trust Colony Capital, which took over part of the title after Jackson defaulted on a loan backed by the property in 2008. According to the Wall Street Journal, Burkle was a longtime advisor for Jackson and chose to buy the property as “a land bank opportunity” for his private club company, the Soho Club.

A co-founder of investment firm Yucaipa Companies, Burkle lives in Montana but owns over 1,000 acres of land in California’s East Glen. He also owns or once owned several prominent homes across the country. In 2019, he sold Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House for $18 million.

Jackson was one of the most iconic entertainment figures of the 1980s and 1990s with songs like “Thriller” and dances like the Moonwalk. The later part of his life, however, was taken over by scandal, courts and financial difficulties. Jackson died in 2009 from what the coroner called “acute propofol intoxication.” His physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011.

Email Veronika Bondarenko

IDX Real Estate