Neverland - the world’s newest tourist attraction?

For the masses gathered outside UCLA Medical Centre to popstars hitting the airwaves to express their grief, Michael Jackson’s untimely death came as a bolt from the blue.

Yet to the small group of family members and those in his inner circle, it served as more than a “Diana moment” but the tragic confirmation of their deepest fears - the King of Pop died from a massive heart attack they blame on the pressure of his impending 50-date tour at London’s O2 Arena.Family lawyer Brian Oxman said “enablers” were to blame for pushing 50-year-old too hard physically in preparation for the mammoth “This Is It” tour, which was also expected to mark the start of a three-year world tour starting in Europe, then travelling to Asia and ending in the United States.

Former Jackson 5 publicist Arthur Phoenix, said he had warned his family that Jackson was too frail to perform at the O2 - and claimed they agreed with him.

His 02 Arena schedule was the undeniably the music event of the year, and possible the decade. It was also one of the biggest travel events of the summer, with nearly one million fans from across the world expected to descend on the British capital to see Jackson perform.

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AEG Live, the O2 owner, now faces a £300 million insurance liability and a loss from empty nights in the venue. Reports are also suggesting that AEG was only insured for the first 10 nights of the residence, as insurers were wary of the singer being fit enough to play all 50 nights, leaving it with a potential insurance liability of up to £300m.

There were fears it could be some time before fans get their money back. Official agents Ticketmaster and Viagogo were unable to reassure customers, who spent up to a £1,000 for a ticket, when they would be refunded. Thousands who bought from private sellers and tickets touts are likely to be out of pocket.

Many fans planned summer vacations around the concerts, and the cancellation of shows could prove a bitter blow to London’s travel industry, which sold accommodation and airfare packages based on the concerts.

The biggest and most tragic victims of Jackson’s sudden death, however, may be his three children - Prince Michael, Paris, and “Blanket” - who have no obvious future guardians or sources of income. His ex-wife Debbie Rowe is the birth mother of the first two, but formally relinquished custody during their divorce settlement, while “Blanket” was born to a mystery surrogate he never met.

As the world mourns the King of Pop, there are now many questions surrounding his legacy and how it will be preserved.

Could his 2,800-acre Neverland ranch become a Graceland-style museum and monument to Jackson?

One thing is certain: Jackson only retained a small percentage of ownership in the property at the time of his death. In November he transferred the title to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company - a joint venture between him and Colony Capital. In return, it appears that he was able to sell an unknown proportion of the property right for $35 million, which he desperately needed to pay off debts.

The deal was negotiated by his business magnate Philip Anschutz, whose holdings also include the concert production firm and organisers of his “This Is It” tour, AEG Live.

During its heyday, Neverland was stocked with a petting zoo, Ferris wheel and other carnival and circus entertainment.

The eccentric entertainer, who was thrust into stardom as a child, was known to open Neverland’s gates to children from the inner city, those suffering from illness, and local children as well.

The Neverland ranch and Jackson’s final resting place, if made accessible to the public, could also become a lucrative tourist attractions.

Graceland has become a much-visited landmark. Opening its doors to the paying members of the public is thought to have made the trust that operates Graceland in the region of $100 million.

What do you think should become of Neverland? Vote on the BTN poll.
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