It may not be Neverland, but it will have to do. Michael Jackson has leased a Bel-Air mansion for $100,000 a month, according to his manager-spokesman Tohme Tohme. The pop icon wanted to be closer to "where all the action is" in the entertainment industry, the spokesman said.
The gated estate that Jackson is leasing was one of the most expensive houses listed for sale last year in Los Angeles but was withdrawn from the market after the Gloved One signed a year's lease.
"He might want to build his own dream house" during that time, Tohme said, adding, "although the real estate market isn't very good right now."
Jackson's temporary shelter is a French chateau estate built in 2002. It has seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces and a theater. There is a multistory grand entry, hardwood floors, a formal dining room, wood-paneled den and adjoining library with coffered ceilings. The state-of-the-art kitchen has an adjacent butler's pantry. There is also a wine cellar and tasting room -- and nary a Ferris wheel or exotic animal in sight.
There's been speculation for several weeks that Jackson was living in the Los Angeles area. He was recently spotted in a Santa Monica bookstore browsing among the racks shielded by a black umbrella and sporting dark glasses and a face mask, according to multiple media reports. Unofficial biographer Ian Halperin claimed last month that Jackson was suffering from a life-threatening lung ailment and might be seeking medical treatment at a major U.S. hospital. The Jackson camp resoundingly denied Halperin's claims. Tohme says Jackson is well and considering various entertainment projects.
As for Jackson's famous Neverland compound that hovered on the brink of foreclosure for an eternity: In November it was widely reported that he surrendered title to the Neverland Ranch, which made the new owner the Sycamore Valley Ranch Co. -- a joint venture between Jackson and an affiliate of Colony Capital LLC. The 120-acre estate in the hills outside Santa Barbara once featured a zoo and roller coaster but fell into disrepair when Jackson left the area for Bahrain after he was acquitted on child molestation charges in 2005.