Merry Christmas to Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle. Celebrity news site TMZ is reporting the Penguins co-owner purchased Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch for a healthy discount.
Though we hesitate to use the words healthy and Neverland Ranch in the same sentence.
According to reports, Burkle paid around $22 million for the Los Olivos, CA estate, renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch. Jackson purchased it in 1987 and turned it into a small theme park for himself and visiting children. Jackson was later charged, but a jury found him not guilty of molestation charges stemming from alleged activities at the ranch.
However, the late singer settled another accusation for $20 million, and his estate is currently being sued by Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who also claim to have been molested at the ranch. The men are the subject of a 2019 HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland. Their suit was dismissed in 2016 because the statute of limitations had expired.
However, a new California law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, extended the statute. The two men refiled their claims, which are disputed by the estate. In a public statement, the Jackson estate characterized the controversial documentary as “character assassination.”
Jackson once had a Ferris wheel, a train, and a small zoo, including an elephant housed at the 2700 acre property.
The estate was put up for sale in 2015 with a price tag of $100 million and listed again in 2019 with a much lower tag of $31 million, but there were no takers until Burkle.
Burkle is a billionaire and co-founder of The Yucaipa Companies, which is known for facilitating grocery store mergers and distribution to retail outlets. Burkle’s estimated net worth has fallen from an estimated $2 billion in 2018 to $1.4 billion in 2020.
Burkle also invests in startup companies through A-Grade investments, which he started with investors Guy Oseary and Ashton Kutcher. Their investments include SeatGeek, Uber, SoundCloud, and Spotify.
Burkle partnered with primary owner and former Penguins star Mario Lemieux in 1999 to save the team from bankruptcy. The Lemieux group purchased the team for about $107 million. According to recent Forbes estimates, the team is now worth approximately $650 million.
Burkle worked with Jackson as a business advisor in the 1990s and reportedly helped Jackson deal with extraordinary debts. In 2009, Jackson died of cardiac arrest. His doctor, Conrad Murray, was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the lethal prescription drug cocktail he provided to Jackson.
The 12,000 square-foot mansion also has a basketball court, tennis courts, and a 50-seat movie theater.
In the past, Burkle has scooped up other celebrity homes, including a home in Florida once owned by Bob Hope and a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.