Colony will address Neverland future in “due time”

Thomas Barrack writes an open letter to Santa Barbara residents appealing for the community to welcome Michael Jackson fans with open arms as they descend on the singer’s “only true home”, the Neverland Ranch. Colony reportedly spent more than $3m renovating the property this year in preparation for its sale.

Colony Capital founder Thomas Barrack says the future of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch will be addressed in “due time through normal process and with appropriate deliberation”.

As fans descend on the 2,500-acre Santa Barbara ranch to pay tribute to the singer, Barrack urged local residents to welcome them with open arms.

“It is a reality that the world will quickly descend on Santa Barbara and Neverland as fans continue to grieve,” the Colony chairman said in an open letter printed in the LA Times. “We must be prepared for the fact that visitors and fans will come, with or without permission or an invitation.”

The Los Angeles-based private equity real estate firm saved the property from the brink of foreclosure last May after it acquired $25 million of debt from Fortress Investment Group.

Barrack was instrumental in the deal, and since that time Colony has spent more than $3 million on landscaping and repairs to the property's electrical and plumbing systems in preparation for a sale, according to the Wall Street Journal. The ranch was expected to fetch up to $90 million.

Barrack has met with Jackson's family following his death last Thursday. He reportedly joined Jackson’s brothers, Jackie, Jermaine and Tito, at the ranch for lunch on Saturday. A spokesman for Colony told Associated Press at the time: “[Barrack] feels very close to the family and wants to hear their thoughts about how best to honour Michael's memory.”

In his open letter yesterday, Barrack – who has lived in Santa Barbara for more than 30 years – said Neverland was Jackson’s “only true home” and was set to become a “temporary sanctuary where fans and family can still feel the presence of his kind and compassionate soul.

“Right now, the imperative is to be responsive at a sensitive moment in which the world is watching us and observing our conduct as we mourn the loss of one of our own long-time residents.”

Click here to read the full open letter.