Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Michael Jackson faces forced sale of Neverland

By Dan Whitcomb
1 hour, 41 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -
Michael Jackson's famed Neverland
Valley Ranch
in California will be foreclosed and sold on March
19 unless the pop star pays a balance of nearly $25 million,
property records showed on Tuesday.

FoxNews celebrity columnist Roger Friedman reported on
the Web site (http://www.foxnews) that Jackson has been
formally apprised of the foreclosure and that legal documents
have also been filed with the Santa Barbara County Recorder's

"You are in default of a deed of trust ...," Jackson was
told in the five-page filing, according to a copy of the
document published by FoxNews. "Unless you take action to
protect your property it may be sold at a public sale."

According to the documents, if Jackson fails to pay the
outstanding balance, estimated at $24.5 million, Neverland
would be sold to the highest bidder at a public auction on the
courthouse steps.

The county recorder's Web site shows that a Notice of
Trustees Sale was filed against Neverland Valley Ranch on
Monday but no further details were available and a spokeswoman
for the office declined to comment.

Jackson's publicist, Raymone Bain, did not return calls
seeking comment on the foreclosure notice.

The onetime "King of Pop" has owned the 2,800-acre
(1,133-ha) ranch in the rolling foothills above the California
coast since 1988, naming it after the whimsical island where
children never grow up in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan stories.

Jackson, 49, famously outfitted the property with a private
zoo and amusement park and festooned it with statues of Peter

But the reclusive, Grammy-winning singer has spent little
time at Neverland since his June, 2005 acquittal on charges
that he sexually molested a young boy there after plying him
with alcohol.

In 2006 state authorities ordered the property shuttered
and fined Jackson for failing to pay his employees or maintain
proper insurance, and the zoo animals have since reportedly
been removed.

Jackson, who proclaimed himself "King of Pop" in the 1980s
and scored one of the top-selling pop albums of all time in
"Thriller," has since seen his fame as an entertainer eclipsed
by the sometimes bizarre details of his personal life.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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