Jackson avoids losing Neverland Ranch

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Pop star Michael Jackson sidestepped a foreclosure auction of his Neverland Ranch after an investment company bought the loan on the troubled Los Olivos property, a spokeswoman said Sunday.

The loan purchase by Colony Capital LLC was the latest deal to keep the 2,500-acre ranch from being sold off.

In March, Jackson, 49, reached an agreement with his creditors, Fortress Investment Group, to postpone an auction until this week.

Colony spokeswoman Caroline Luz said the auction has now been canceled.

In a statement released by a Jackson spokesman, who identified himself as B. Michael, the pop star said he was “pleased with recent developments involving Neverland” that would “allow me to focus on the future.”

The estate in the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County had a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, game arcades and a zoo with elephants, giraffes and orangutans.

It reportedly fell into disrepair after Jackson left the area after his acquittal on child molestation charges in 2005.

Jackson has struggled to pay his debts in recent years. He sold a large portion of his music publishing catalog, which includes songs by the Beatles, and was sued by former business associates, an accountant and other employees.

According to court testimony, Jackson was spending $30 million more a year than he earned, acquiring lavish homes and a growing collection of exotic animals -- many of them kept at Neverland.

His music sales struggled after the molestation allegations.

In 2005, Jackson moved to the Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain, where he had been a guest of the crown prince. He has reportedly lived overseas since then.

Jackson bought the ranch in 1988 for $28 million.