Has Michael Jackson’s Santa Ynez Valley compound known around the world as the Neverland Ranch been sold to a French fashion designer?
Probably not, as neither the property’s owners nor the County of Santa Barbara seems to know of the sale, which was reported this morning, September 4, in the Houston Chronicle‘s condensed reprint of a Agence France-Press (AFP) article about Ed Hardy clothing line designer Christian Audigier. The rumor has since exploded on the Internet, but it seems to be rooted in confusion over Audigier’s Holmby Hills mansion, where the pop singer died from an apparent drug overdose on June 25.
In the Chronicle article (see it here), Audigier said he wants to turn Neverland into a haven for Jackson fans, opening it up every year on the anniversary of the singer’s death. In that report, he claims the deal is finalized and that he will receive the keys in two weeks. But the only AFP report currently available on the Internet about Audigier (see that one here reports the same news about the Holmby Hills mansion in the Beverly Hills area of Los Angeles, specifically that he will get the keys in two weeks and that he hopes to open it up on the anniversary of Jackson’s death. As such, it seems that confusion over Jackson’s various properties might be fueling this rumor.
According to a representative with the County of Santa Barbara recorder’s office, “As of yet, we haven’t recorded any documents [related to the sale of Neverland]. Nothing has been confirmed.” There was similar uncertainty coming from representatives for Neverland’s current owner Tom Barrack and his company Colony Capital. Though Caroline Luz, of Owen Blicksilver Public Relations, which represents the company, officially issued a “no comment,” it seemed pretty clear that no one had told them about any pending sale of the property, which is supposedly valued at $90 million or so.
In the meantime, the blogosphere has jumped on the Houston Chronicle report with glee, with nearly 40 outlets spreading the rumor widely.