LOS ANGELES (CNN) — Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch could be put up for sale, according to the investment company that owns a controlling interest in the estate.
The 2,700-acre property, nestled in the rolling hills and cattle ranches of Santa Barbara County, California, was Jackson’s refuge from the world from 1988 until he essentially abandoned it after he was acquitted on child molestation charges in 2005.
The zoo and amusement park rides, including a Ferris wheel and a railroad, are long gone, but Neverland remains an important pilgrimage for die hard Jackson fans from around the world. A constant flow of flowers, cards and gifts are left at the closed gate.
Tom Barrack’s Colony Capital got a major stake in property when it bailed Jackson out of financial trouble in 2008, a year before the singer died while preparing for a comeback concert tour.
Barrack “is considering” selling he rural property, which is surrounded by rolling hills and cattle ranches, but it has not yet been listed for sale, according to Owen Blicksilver, the spokesman for Colony Capital.
Jackson’s estate still owns a minority interest in Neverland, but there is no indication from its executors that they are considering buying out Colony Capital’s stake to preserve it.
“We are saddened at the prospect of the sale of Neverland which, under the agreement negotiated during Michael’s lifetime, Colony has the right to sell,” the Jackson estate said in a written statement Thursday.
The estate’s statement said it would “maintain Michael’s family home in Encino, including its iconic recording studio there,” as part of his legacy. It also pointed to other legacy projects such as Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE show in Las Vegas.
“We hope and trust that any new owners of Neverland will respect the historical importance and special nature of this wonderful property,” the Jackson estate said. “Michael’s memory lives on in the hearts of his fans worldwide.”
While Jackson vowed in his last years to never return to Neverland, some of his family members pushed for his burial there after his sudden death on June 25, 2009. He was finally entombed at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.
Jackson was close to losing the land in 2008 when Barrack agreed to put up a reported $35 million to pay the mortgage and help fund the entertainer’s lifestyle. The deal gave Barrack’s Colony Capital control of the property.
Jackson’s death from an overdose of a surgical anesthetic came during preparations for his “This Is It” tour set to debut in London in July, which Jackson hoped would revive his performance career and restore is wealth.
Colony Capital has paid the salaries of the small staff that maintains Neverland, including the security needed to keep the curious out.
What could become of Neverland with a new owner?
The area is home to a lot of grazing cattle, although a few miles away several hotels and restaurants thrive in the Danish-themed tourist village Solvang.
A California state legislator proposed in 2010 that the California Department of Parks and Recreation should consider acquiring Neverland as a state park. The proposal was never pursued.