Michael Jackson's personal life is being scrutinized again, this time in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, which bears the name of Jackson's estate and includes extensive footage of the property throughout its four-hour runtime. But Jackson himself left his famous Neverland Ranch long before his death in 2009. And, as of 2019, new owners of Neverland Ranch have the estate up for sale — only it's not called that any more. In fact, the current property owners have taken great lengths to avoid any obvious ties to Jackson.
Time magazine reported that when Neverland Ranch first went on sale in 2015, it was specifically being marketed to people who wouldn't use the land as a museum to memorialize the singer. Neverland Ranch also a new name, Sycamore Valley Ranch, a change which the Wall Street Journal reported was heavily emphasized by the ranch's asset manager.
But this intentional separation of the man from the land began long ago. After he was acquitted of child molestation charges in 2005, Jackson declined to return home to his ranch. It had been thoroughly searched by officers in over 40 police vehicles during the trial, and Rolling Stone reported that Jackson blamed the investigation for making his property not feel like a home to him anymore. According to Rolling Stone, he spent the next four years moving around from Bahrain to Ireland and eventually moving to another home in LA.
In the beginning, he retained ownership of the ranch, even though he was no longer living there. But another article in the Wall Street Journal reported that Jackson later defaulted on a $24.5 million loan which then required the sale of the ranch. Colony Capital, a real estate investment firm, purchased the debt and a large share of the property — although it formed a joint venture with Jackson that gave him a portion of ownership.
New York magazine reported that Colony Capital agreed to this deal because Jackson was going to rejoin the music industry and be able to generate new income. But Jackson died 18 days before his comeback tour was scheduled to begin in 2009, according to Forbes. So Colony made plans to sell the property. According to Forbes, it's unclear the size of that portion that the Jackson Estate (comprised of Jackson's three children and his mother) owns of the ranch, but it's believed to be relatively small.
Vanity Fair reported that Jackson's daughter Paris Jackson told Event magazine in 2013 that she would like to restore her home to its former glory. "It’s beautiful there. It still has good energy. I think it should be restored to how it used to be so that the children who couldn’t have a childhood could have fun there. That was his goal — like kids in a hospital. They should restore all the rides and everything. As soon as I’m an adult, I’m on it. Count on it," a then 15-year-old Paris said. She's nearly 21 now, but her hope hasn't come to fruition.
Instead, the property was put on the market by Colony Capital in 2015 after extensive renovations and upgrades. The same Wall Street Journal article reported that it was listed at $100 million. The real estate agent pledged not to allow the property to be toured by "looky loos," according to the above Forbes article. She added that prospective buyers would need proof of adequate financial status before they could be shown the home. No one bought it, though, and it went back on the market for a reduced price of $67 million in 2017. Now, in 2019, it's back on the market again — this time for $31 million.
But the same New York magazine piece reported that many of the attractions that once made the place so unique (like the amusement park rides and the zoo) had long ago been sold. The Wall Street Journal article reported that other features like the private fire department building (now unstaffed), 1950s fire truck, and train station still remain.
And it may be called Sycamore Valley Ranch now, but the giant topiary clock reading "Neverland" still features prominently on the grounds — essentially its last remaining tie to Jackson.