Thursday, December 26, 2013

Buying Neverland

If you have read the real estate brochure posted elsewhere on this blog, you will know that the original owner, William Bone, put a lot of work and money into building what was then the Sycamore Valley Ranch. Consequently, it can hardly be a surprise that he was not willing to sell at any price, so when Michael decided to buy the ranch, the process of purchasing it ended up being rather lenghty. (Which I suppose, is not unusual for properties of this size and value.)

Below, you will find copies of Michael's first $13 million offer, dated July 2nd, 1987 - as well as a $100.000 cashiers check dated July 6th, 1987. (Gloria Rhoads Berlin says in her book "In Search Of Neverland" that it was a $200.000 cashiers check, but also that Michael's offer had to be taken to John Branca et al. for approval and that the advisors kept interfering, saying the offer was too high. In fact, Branca suggested that Michael make a $9 million offer. So perhaps the amount on the cashiers check was lowered during the approval process - or Mrs. Berlin forgot a tiny detail, which I am sure we will all forgive her.)

Bill Bray and Mrs. Berlin took the offer to Aspen, where Bone was skiing at the time and I think it is safe to say that he was not happy with Michael's offer. According to Mrs. Berlin's book his eyes teared up as he told them he found the offer totally unacceptable. Later he added that had she been a man he would have puched her in the face.

"Bill Bray's mouth was hanging open and he was alternately looking at me and then Bill Bone. He didn't offer to protect me and looked like he would have preferred to be anywhere other than witness to this conversation." ("In Search Of  Neverland, p. 81.)

Michael made another offer on July 20th, 1987, but this $14 million offer was also found unacceptable by Bone. Then followed a third offer on September 4th - this time for $14.250.000. And still Bone was not impressed. Michael then raised his offer another $250.000 and so it would continue until December 18th, 1987 when Michael offered $17 million and Bone finally accepted.

First page of the agreement for purchase and sale with Michael's initials

The agreement for the purchase and sale was signed on February 28th, 1988 with the purchase price calculated as follows:

1. Land                                                      $2.779.000
2. Farm real property improvements              $375.000
3. Residential real property improvements $11.490.000
4. Farm personal property                               $11.000
5. Residential personal property                  $2.245.000
                                                  TOTAL $17.000.000

And then - as a curiosity:
The Los Angeles Times article on the purchase from March 1988.
(As you will see even a relatively respectable news paper like the Los Angeles Times failed to get the important details right.)

Hot Property
Michael Jackson to Be Home on the Range

March 20, 1988 |RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer
Michael Jackson is on a 13-city concert tour, but when he comes home, it probably won't be just to Encino anymore.
He is buying a 2,700-acre ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley for about $28 million and a small hotel nearby, for his entourage, for $5 million, say several real estate sources.

The pop star was looking at Hope Ranch in Santa Barbara but needed a more rural environment for his menagerie. At last count, he had monkeys, llamas, snakes, birds and just about every kind of farmyard animal except a cow at his 1-acre Encino compound, where he and his family have lived since the '60s.
They will have plenty of room to stretch on the remote Sycamore Valley Ranch, which is being sold by William Bone, developer of the PGA West resort in Palm Springs and scores of condos in the desert.

Bone bought the place, then known as the Zaca Laderas Ranch, in 1977 from banker Robert Easton.
Bone developed a large clubhouse at Sycamore Valley Ranch and apparently had plans to turn the property into a country club but changed his mind. The ranch has been on the market for at least a year.
Besides the clubhouse, the property has a huge house on a 32-acre home site and 50,000 oak trees.
Bone was asking $32 million, and turned down Jackson's original offer of $17 million. Escrow hasn't closed yet on the $28-million sale.

There is no news yet on whether Jackson will sell his Encino home, which he expanded in 1982. He moved the original 1,570-square-foot house to the rear of the site then for use as a recording studio and built an 11,500-square-foot house in front along with a four-car garage with 850 square feet of living space overhead.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review - Robert E. Swinson's "Maker of Dreams"

It was during phone conversations with Tatum O'Neal in the mid-1970s that Michael's dream took root. However, it was not until the beginning of the 1990s that this dream would finally come true.

"Maker of Dreams - Creating Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley Park" documents the realization of the dream in words and hundreds of unique pictures from the private archives of the man, who Michael himself called his "Maker of dreams", Robert E. Swinson.

In June 1990, Swinson was national sales manager for Chance Rides Inc. and it was in this capacity that he mailed color brochures, photos, animal selection guides and a promotional video to an anonymous client of Wonderworks, a company specializing in models and special effects. A few days later, Swinson received a call from the mystery client - who turned out to be Michael Jackson. Michael was very excited about the carrousel video, which he admitted to have watched over and over again from his hospital bed in Santa Monica. (He was recovering from a stomach inflammation.)

Shortly thereafter, Michael ordered the custom carrousel - and subsequently the rest of the rides that would make up the Neverland Valley Park.

"Wow, I want one of those too," was a frequently uttered line during those years.

The book goes on to detail how a bare dirt area was transformed into the beautifully landscaped amusement park - from the first meetings in Michael's Neverland conference room to its completion a few years later.

The pictures, which make up most of the book, are amazing - most of them are no doubt completely unknown even to the most hard core Neverland afficionado too - and although the book is not so much about the man as it is about his dream, there are lots of Michael anedtotes included in the book. So even if Neverland is not the reader's main interest, I am sure that most fans will enjoy the book tremendously.
(One of the funniest anecdotes tells the story of Michael frequently spying on the workers from behind the corner of the theater building as they installed the rides, completely unaware that his bright red shirt gave him away every time he did so.)

Included in the book are also copies of original letters, Swinson's work diary, which is made up by transcriptions of notes and a pocket diary that he kept in 1992, a Brad Sundberg interview as well as a collection of links to related web sites and videos.

...To make a long story short - the book is a definite must-have for any fan of Michael!

Want to know more?
Visit the Maker of Dreams web site here: