Michael Jackson faces forced sale of Neverland

LOS ANGELES Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:45am EST

1 of 2. An aerial view of a lake with fountains inside Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch in a file photo. 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.

Credit: Reuters/Max Morse

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

"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.com. "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 Pan characters.

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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