Michael Jackson’s brothers visit Neverland ranch, while future of property remains unclearBy Michael R. Blood, AP
Monday, June 29, 2009
Michael Jackson’s brothers visit Neverland ranch
LOS ANGELES — Three of the brothers who sang and danced beside Michael Jackson in the Jackson 5 made a private visit to the pop star’s Neverland Ranch, where they walked the manicured grounds and reminisced about his life.
Jackie, Jermaine and Tito Jackson were joined for lunch Saturday at the estate by billionaire investor Thomas Barrack, who previously set up a joint venture with Michael Jackson that took control of the ranch after the singer nearly lost it to foreclosure last year.
It’s not known what will become of the 2,500-acre, Santa Barbara County ranch, a major piece of the singer’s debt-strapped financial empire. There have been unconfirmed reports that it could become a memorial or museum honoring Jackson’s legacy in the mold of Elvis Presley’s Graceland.
It’s “premature to talk about the future of the property,” said Owen Blicksilver, a spokesman for Colony Capital LLC, the Los Angeles-based firm where Barrack is chairman and CEO.
Barrack “feels very close to the family and wants to hear their thoughts about how best to honor Michael’s memory,” Blicksilver said.
The ranch in the rolling hills of central California wine country was set to be sold in March 2008 because of missed payments on a $24.5 million loan, but Jackson managed to cut an 11th-hour deal to keep it off the auction block.
He was 29 and at the height of his popularity when he bought the ranch, naming it after the mythical land of Peter Pan, where boys never grow up.
At once a symbol of Jackson’s success and excesses, Neverland became the site of a makeshift memorial after his death Thursday.
Scores of fans have streamed past the gated entrance to leave handwritten notes, photographs, balloons and flowers.
The ranch “is always going to be a memorial to Michael,” said Gladys Beaty of Sacramento, who traveled to the property Sunday. “It’s going to always be treasured.”
Jackson fled the ranch — and the country — after his acquittal on charges that he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003 at the estate after getting him drunk.
Jackson moved luxury cars, artwork, jewelry, costumes and other property off the ranch last year for an auction that never occurred.
Recently, renovations have been under way, including extensive landscaping.
AP video journalist Rich Matthews in Los Olivos, Calif., contributed to this report.
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