We want to find a solution for the future of the estate, and we want to prevent the ranch from being purchased by someone who does not appreciate its historical importance. We don’t want further attacks like ‘Leaving Neverland’, we don’t want anyone to dishonour the estate again, and we definitely don’t want a psychotic person to burn it down. We have to stop estate agents and TV reporters from entering Michael Jackson’s bedroom time after time. It happened hundreds of times during the last 10 years. We want the estate to function as a home once again. In accordance with Santa Barbara County laws, we want to conduct agricultural activity on the ranch, and we want to maintain the estate from the money generated this way. We want fans to be satisfied with the condition of the ranch at any time in the future, and we want to provide them with up-to-date information about the life of the estate, as well as to organize a few dates every year when the gates of the estate are opened to the public and guests can visit the ranch (free of charge!).
Besides the claims made in the Statement to The Estate of Michael Jackson (read below), we promise to preserve the original landscape of the ranch, and to keep Neverland a place fans can attach to. The ranch will always be open to members of Michael Jackson’s family. We promise to make the ranch self-sustainable, thereby becoming valuable members of the Santa Ynez Valley community. The operation of the foundation maintaining the ranch will always be transparent to supporters.
No, we are not affiliated with the Estate of Michael Jackson, and we didn’t have any prior discussions with them about the campaign. However, we are open to any form of co-operation with them in ensuring that the ranch finds its new owner, and that it is preserved in a form worthy of the historical importance of the place, without altering the wonderful landscape Michael Jackson built.
The best and the only true owner of Neverland was Michael Jackson. It is clear that neither the Estate nor the Jackson family intends to buy the ranch back. Whoever becomes the new owner of the ranch undertakes a hard task. If we start looking for the best candidates to carry on the legacy of the ranch, we will lose precious time, as the property is bound to be sold with its current $31 million price tag. Since the ranch doesn’t have any business potential, it will presumably become the home of a private person. At the moment, the most important thing is to make sure that the buyer is a member of the fan community, so that Neverland’s gates will be open to fans who wish to visit the place free of charge. If Neverland becomes the home of a private person outside the fan community, we have to give up this dream, and the gates will be closed on us. Even worse, there is a good chance that the new owner will transform the landscape, destroying the scenery that Michael Jackson created.
4. What are the guarantees that the funds raised in this campaign will be used to purchase the ranch?
As with all crowdfunding projects, there is a chance that the target won’t be reached, and that the dream won’t become reality. Should Sycamore Valley Ranch be acquired before we are able to achieve the total amount needed, or if reasonable considerations/vis major situations should happen; all contributions will be donated to a reliable charity. We encourage our donors to recommend a charity in line with the spirit of Michael Jackson.
Nevertheless, since we have huge respect for Michael Jackson, his life’s work, and his fans, we’ll do our best to make this campaign successful. We believe that one of Michael Jackson’s most complex and emotional masterpieces was Neverland Ranch. It is heartbreaking to think of all the love Michael Jackson put into creating this place, and of all the adverse events Neverland suffered nonetheless. We are not only fans, but also collectors: we own a lot of valuable Neverland memorabilia. Small items that we hold in high esteem. We can therefore promise that if we become owners of the ranch, it will remain a worthy memorial where all activities will be conducted in Michael Jackson’s humanitarian spirit, and the ranch will never be transformed significantly. We guarantee this as part of this campaign.
We are aware that neither the Estate (comprising highly skilled lawyers) nor the present owner (Colony Capital, also comprising experienced businessmen) see a huge business potential in the ranch. That’s not surprising: if the ranch was good investment, it would have already been bought. There would probably be a Michael Jackson museum operating on the premises today, or at least there would have been someone buying the ranch in the last 3 years.
However, a museum or a Michael Jackson theme park operating on admission fees will never be built in this place. This is due to the fact that Santa Barbara County withholds permission to establish tourist attractions in the region. During his lifetime, Michael Jackson explored this possibility and was faced with the fact that it could not be done. The only thing Neverland may ever become is a family estate, similar to the neighbouring estates giving home to vineyards and horse ranches. Worst of all, the ranch is in the middle of nowhere, a 40 minute drive from Santa Maria, an hour from Santa Barbara, and two and a half hours from Los Angeles.
The top priority for the ranch is to operate economically and in a self-sustaining manner. To cut costs, solar panels would be installed to power the ranch. All other costs could be covered by livestock farming and viticulture just like on the neighbouring ranches. On the 2,700-acre property, there would be plenty of area for ploughland, vegetable patches, a local market and a vineyard, as well as for free range cattle farming and horse keeping. The ranch is already fully equipped for livestock farming, as several paddocks and stables were built when Michael Jackson turned Sycamore Valley Ranch into Neverland. The place is also suitable for horse riding; therefore, amateur riders and physically or mentally challenged children would be able to take riding lessons in keeping with the mission that Neverland originally had. All activities would be conducted through a foundation created exclusively for this purpose. The foundation would not bear the name of Michael Jackson (as it would not be permitted).
7. Statement to The Estate of Michael Jackson
- We want to fully comply with the expectations of The Estate of Michael Jackson, and we are open to co-operation.
- The estate will never be named Neverland Valley Ranch again, it will probably remain Sycamore Valley Ranch. The name Neverland Valley Ranch (and related forms) are mentioned in this campaign only because fans prefer this name and because it sounds more familiar to them.
- We do not intend to use Michael Jackson’s name in any way in connection with the operation of the estate. We respect the rights connected to his name and his life’s work.
- In compliance with the laws of Santa Barbara County, we do not intend to build any tourist attractions on the estate. We acknowledge that its location and the applicable zoning regulations prohibit opening it up to the public. We do not intend to disturb the peace of the neighbours.
- Under our ownership, the ranch would never be open to paying customers; however, visitors would surely be received, just like any property owner can decide to let guests in their home. Such visits; however, will not be associated with Neverland or Michael Jackson.
- We will preserve the characteristic landscape of the estate created by Michael Jackson, and we will respect the historical importance and the special nature of this wonderful property.
8. Who is the current owner of Neverland Ranch and who decides about it?
The majority owner of the estate is Colony Capital LLC, who is probably also the sole owner today. To the best of our knowledge, the Estate of Michael Jackson does not own the property, and has no say in the matter that the current owner has been trying to sell it for years. At the same time, it is certain that anyone who wants to buy the estate needs permission from the current owner (Colony Capital), the Estate of Michael Jackson, and the real estate agent in charge of the sale. Being able to pay the necessary purchase price is not enough. And why?
9. Why don’t they open a Michael Jackson museum in Neverland, similarly to Elvis Presley’s Graceland?
There are at least three reasons why it will never happen: Elvis Presley’s home is located a 15 minute drive from downtown Memphis. The location is nothing like that of Neverland. The estate that was once Michael Jackson’s home is located in the middle of nowhere, a 40 minute drive from Santa Maria, an hour from Santa Barbara, and two and a half hours from Los Angeles. This is one of the most important reasons. The second reason is that the Estate of Michael Jackson will never give permission to establishing a Michael Jackson museum on the ranch. But even if they wanted to, as planned earlier, the third reason why Neverland will never become a museum with paying visitors is that Santa Barbara County withholds permission to establish tourist attractions in the region. During his lifetime, Michael Jackson explored this possibility and was faced with the fact that it could not be done. The only thing Neverland may ever become is a family estate as the region is zoned agricultural. Furthermore, the neighbours are also against the heavy traffic on the roads that would be expected if Neverland had as many visitors as Elvis’ estate.
10. Why don’t they return the estate to Michael Jackson’s children?
Michael Jackson sold the ranch in 2008, which means that the current owner cannot be expected to donate it to Michael Jackson’s children. Two of Michael Jackson’s three children are over 21; therefore, they could decide to buy the estate if they wanted to. The royalties (e.g. Cirque du Soleil) received since the King of Pop’s death would be sufficient, but apparently they do not have such intentions. The exact reason is unknown, but it probably has to do with the location of the estate, the high maintenance costs, and the fact that they spent the majority of their childhood elsewhere.
11. Why is Neverland Ranch currently called Sycamore Valley Ranch?
The estate had been called Sycamore Valley Ranch before Michael Jackson bought it in 1988. Neverland was created by Michael Jackson. In 2008, Colony Capital acquired majority ownership of the estate for 23 million dollars, and all movable property has been removed from the site. Besides the amusement park rides, all of Jackson’s personal belongings were removed, along with the signs and inscriptions that used to be the trademarks of Michael Jackson and Neverland. The only characteristic Neverland objects that remained on the site are inseparable from the estate, e.g. the front gate, the inner metal gate, the floral clock in front of the railway station, and some small garden sculptures. The name of the estate can never be connected to Michael Jackson again. If the new buyer intends to call it Neverland again, the current owners of the rights and the estate will not agree to the sale.
12. Why don’t they open a hospital for sick children?
This question is typically asked by people who have never been to Neverland. As mentioned earlier, Neverland is in the middle of nowhere, a 40 minute drive from Santa Maria, an hour from Santa Barbara, and two and a half hours from Los Angeles. That’s how long it would take for an ambulance to get there. Furthermore, the infrastructure in the region is not suitable for a children’s hospital. Also, the laws of Santa Barbara County would not allow for it, as Santa Ynez Valley is zoned agricultural, so the idea is totally impracticable.
13. It is not a good idea to buy the estate because the maintenance costs are high.
This used to be the case in Michael Jackson’s time. But let’s not forget that in the glory days Neverland had a private zoo full of exotic animals. The elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, tigers, lions, flamingos, and other animals required dedicated personnel and keeping them involved high expenses. There was also dedicated personnel ensuring the flawless operation of the dozen or so amusement park rides. The ranch was surrounded by railroad with two trains carrying visitors who could not only use all attractions for free, but occasionally, Jackson also treated them to foods and drinks. It is therefore not surprising that the ranch personnel counted more than 100 members, and maintenance costs may have been in the vicinity of $10m annually.
However, the amusement park does not operate anymore. The zoo is empty, and the amount of necessary domestic maintenance and garden work decreased significantly. The number of personnel and the electricity consumption is much lower today. Nowadays, Sycamore Valley Ranch (Neverland) is just a simple ranch. Its maintenance does not cost more than neighboring farms.
14. Extra question: Did Michael Jackson love or hate Neverland?
It’s a hard question as people’s opinions vary on this. We believe that Michael Jackson fell in love with Sycamore Valley Ranch the first time he saw it. Buying the ranch was one of the most important decisions in his life. In a 2003 interview, Michael Jackson said: “I create my world behind my gates. Everything that I love is behind those gates.” In another interview, he declared: “Neverland is me, it represents the totality of who I am”. This is how Neverland became the most beautiful and magical work of art by Michael Jackson. Unfortunately, in the same ‘60 minutes’ interview he also said: “I won’t live there ever again. I’ll visit Neverland. It’s a house now. It’s not a home anymore.” But we believe these words may be attributed in part to his anger and disappointment over the fact that 80 policemen searched his bedroom. We think that Jackson may have realized that if he invites children to Neverland again, he’ll be a target of repeated accusations. When he returned to the United States, he had financial difficulties, which is why he had to give up his dream, Neverland forever.