An auction of the contents of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch has been cancelled following a legal settlement between the auctioneer and lawyers for the former king of pop.
In a statement, Jackson's spokesperson Tohme R. Tohme said the settlement "allows Michael Jackson to retain ownership of the Collection of Michael Jackson".
The abrupt cancellation Tuesday came the same day that the eclectic collection of 1,390 items went on display at a former Beverly Hills department store.
Under the terms of the agreement the exhibit will continue until the end of next week. "There was so much interest from so many of Jackson's fans that instead of putting the items in the hands of private collectors, Dr. Tohme and Julien's Auction House have made arrangements that will allow the collection to be shared with and enjoyed by Jackson's fans for many years to come," the statement said.
Jackson's legal representatives had challenged the sale saying that the singer was never given a chance to sort out his personal effects. Their initial motion was denied, but with another court hearing set for Wednesday a settlement was reached to stop the sale and return the items to Jackson.
Among the items that were to have gone on the auction block were the wrought iron gates of Neverland Ranch, the crystal-covered glove worn by Jackson in the video for Billie Jean, numerous musical awards, a letter from former president Ronald Reagan, heaps of ornate furniture, dozens of statues and a massive collection of toys, games and pinball machines.
Organisers of the sale at Julien's Auctions estimated that it could have raises between $10 million and $20 million, and taken a sizable chunk out of Jackson's estimated $24 million debt.
Jackson also recently signed on to perform a 50-concert run in London in a bid to raise cash and solve his financial problems. The shows sold out quickly and could have given him the money to reclaim the items. The auction house said it had invested close to $2 million to mount the sale. Terms of the settlement were not released.
Jackson lived in Neverland for over 10 years before leaving it in the aftermath of the child molestation case in 2005 which he was acquitted of charges that he sexually abused a young visitor to his retreat.
Auctioneers spent three months emptying the massive estate and have split the eclectic collection into three main categories: stage wear and music memorabilia, toys and Disney memorabilia, and furniture and decorative arts.
Also on display were numerous portraits of Jackson in his favourite royal poses, a tour bus, bumper cars and all-terrain vehicles. There were life-size statues of E.T. and Darth Vader, endless Peter Pan paraphernalia, and dozens of figures of butlers, maids and children that were scattered around the house and its grounds. There was also a Rolls Royce limousine with 24-karat gold trim and numerous jackets Jackson wore on stage and in television appearances.