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August 21, 2014

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Michael Jackson eyed Vegas ‘Wonderland’

Realtor says mansion’s security was key as King of Pop set sights on $16.5 million home

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Justin M. Bowen

Visitors to the Primm compound on Tomiyasu Lane walk through the front door into the grand foyer. To the left is one of five fireplaces in the estate. Pop singer Michael Jackson had set his sights on purchasing the home after returning from his London tour.

A Second Neverland?

Michael Jackson's real estate agent, Zar Zanganeh of VegasFineEstates.com, gives a tour of the Henderson home Jackson wanted to buy.

The Primm Compound

The gates that lead to the estate owned by the Primm family open to reveal a luxurious 10-acre compound. Pop singer Michael Jackson had plans to make an offer on the $16.5 million estate on Tomiyasu Lane. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

The property is bordered by Tomiyasu Lane to the west and Maule Avenue to the north. The main gate, off Tomiyasu, leads up the circular driveway to the main residence (with pool in back). At the southeast corner is the car museum. The northeast quadrant includes equestrian and canine facilities. The building to the northwest, with a gated driveway on Maule, is a 3,000-square-foot guest villa.

Main estate description

  • About 15,000 square feet, 28 rooms, master suite has "his" and "hers" bathrooms with walk-in closets, gym, steam shower, sauna; three bedroom guest suites, nine bathrooms, five fireplaces, an elevator, a 5,000-bottle wine cellar and tasting room, a theater room, a casino game room for billiards, a bar, library office, a trophy room with butternut wood paneling, a beauty salon, a formal dining room with butler pantry, grand living room/foyer and chef's kitchen. Indoor shooting range, security tunnels, panic room. Three gates, 10-foot exterior walls.

Property details

  • Style: Mediterranean
  • Architect: F.H. Ledenfrost
  • Designer: Hank Morgan
  • Bedrooms: 10
  • Bathrooms: 19
  • Garage: 24
  • Total living: 21,000-plus square feet
  • Year built: 1991, completed in 1994
  • Water rights: 125 acres and two wells

Specifications

  • Lot size: 9.86 acre compound
  • Main estate: 4 suites, 9 baths
  • Guest villa: 3 bed, 3 baths, 3,000 square feet
  • Grotto villa: 1 bed, 1 bath, 1,000 square feet
  • Staff quarter: 1 bed, 1 bath, 1,500 square feet
  • Trainer apartment: 1 bed, 1 bath, 500 square feet
  • Equestrian areas: 10 stalls, 2 wash areas, arena, pens, pastures
  • Dog villa: 4 indoor/outdoor areas, salon
  • Grotto pool: Spa, waterfall, slide
  • Landscaping: Expansive lawn and palms

Amenities

  • Twenty car showroom and private gas station, indoor shooting range, private theater, beauty salon, trophy room, greenhouse, driving range. Outdoor kitchen/patio area adjacent to pool that has water slide, fountains, rock formations, guest suite, margarita bar. Fountains also in front of property. Car museum, car wash, mechanic area and gas stations on site. Tennis court/driving range, greenhouse, dog kennel.

-- Source: Vegas Fine Estates

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Zar Zanganeh was Michael Jackson's Las Vegas real estate broker. He said showing the property on Tomiyasu Lane, which the pop singer had hoped to purchase and call "Wonderland," has been bittersweet since the star's death.

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson and members of his entourage ride inside a vehicle just outside the Green Valley Ranch Casino in Henderson on Nov. 20, 2003. Jackson left Las Vegas on that morning and flew to Santa Barbara, Calif., to turn himself in to authorities on charges of child molestation. He landed at the Henderson Executive Airport that afternoon and drove around Las Vegas and Henderson in a black sport utility vehicle for more than two hours. Launch slideshow »

AP video: Raw footage of Neverland

Nestled among the homes of casino owner Phil Ruffin, the Sultan of Brunei and entertainer Wayne Newton is a 10-acre compound that pop singer Michael Jackson was planning to call home.

Actually, he was planning to call the property on Tomiyasu Lane — owned by former casino mogul Gary Primm and his ex-wife, Carol — "Wonderland,” Jackson’s former Las Vegas real estate broker said this week.

“He got so excited, the minute we drove through the gates here he got that feeling of Neverland,” said Zar Zanganeh, a Realtor with Fine Vegas Estates, during a tour of the home. “As soon as he stepped out of the car, he said, 'Zar, I love this place. I'm calling it Wonderland.'”

Jackson began eyeing the home in 2007. The King of Pop was planning to put an offer on the $16.5 million estate after his London tour was complete and his finances were flush, Zanganeh said.

Jackson first saw the property when he was living in a 10-acre mansion on Monte Cristo Way in northwest Las Vegas — a property Zanangeh helped him lease, sight-unseen, while the entertainer was overseas after his acquittal on child sexual abuse charges.

But by the time he got back to the United States, life appeared to be looking up. Jackson was looking toward an eventual future in Las Vegas, Zanganeh said.

“For some time, he was looking for additional lease properties — he wasn't sure if he was going to be staying in Vegas long-term — and when things looked like they were shaping up, we starting looking at homes for him to purchase,” Zanganeh said. “That's when we ended up at this home."

It was one of about 15 homes Zanganeh had shown Jackson. It was the only home where Jackson felt comfortable enough to walk outside with no mask or umbrella to shield him from the sun.

He wanted to move in immediately but his finances weren’t in order to buy at the time, Zanganeh said. He approached the Primms about leasing the home — an offer they turned down. But Jackson’s interest in the house remained piqued and he stayed in regular contact with Zanganeh by phone and e-mail.

Not long before his death, Jackson learned the Primms had lowered the price from about $22 million to $16.5 million. He told Zanganeh he was preparing to make a formal offer upon his return from England.

Jackson died June 25 before any offers landed on the table. Zanganeh was in his office when he heard the news of Jackson’s death.

"At first I didn't believe it. I thought maybe it was a publicity stunt, maybe it was rumors. There's always so many rumors centered around Michael that it's easy to ignore a lot of the press about him,” he said. “But I got a phone call from a friend who knew I worked with him closely and I turned on CNN. Once I started watching the coverage, it became very heartbreaking. I just sat in front of the TV, almost for 24 hours, watching the coverage. I e-mailed my sympathies to the family.”

'He fell in love with it'

The mansion struck a chord with Jackson, who was looking for a permanent home after vowing never to return to his Neverland Ranch near Santa Ynez, Calif. The memories of the trial were too painful, and Zanganeh said Jackson on many occasions during their house hunting swore he would never return there. He saw a future in Las Vegas — he entertained the idea of a regular show on the Strip, and wanted to be able to provide stability for his children. He also wanted a home replete with strong security features.

Security was something Gary Primm took seriously.

The home was completed in 1994 — a year after the kidnapping of casino mogul Steve Wynn’s daughter, Kevyn. The Primms were concerned about the safety of their own two children (and the large fortune they had amassed in the gaming industry).

The security features in the home start with three fierce gates — one each for the main home, the guest home and a service entrance.

Control of those gates — and the guards who manned them — was important to Jackson, Zanganeh said.

"He thought that guards could easily be bought, and he liked to have control of his own gates and operate them himself, which is where the challenge really came into the picture. There are very few homes that are compounds in Las Vegas where you can have control of the whole property yourself, which is why when Michael came to this one, he really fell in love with it," he said.

A fence surrounds the property. Secret tunnels wind throughout the home; many of the doors are bulletproof, and some are cleverly disguised as walls or cabinets to fool a possible intruder giving chase. There’s even a panic room that has its own oxygen supply and a separate, buried phone line so the wires couldn’t possibly be cut.

For security reasons, Zangaeh didn’t show all of the secret rooms and passageways on a recent tour of the home.

"Safety was by far his biggest issue,” he said. “Michael wanted to make sure that his kids were very safe. He was always nervous that someone could perhaps kidnap the kids, or something awful could happen, so safety was the biggest factor for him in finding a home."

Attached to the main home is a four-car garage. But it also offers what real estate agents have billed a “car museum” — in essence, a showroom large enough for 20 additional vehicles.

"They wanted a large enough garage so they could pull in their fleet of cars into the garage, close the garage and make sure the ground is safe before they exited the vehicles,” Zanganeh said. “Here, with the underground tunnel and the indoor garage he was able to drive in quite a few cars and pack and unpack the cars in safety."

The car museum has its own car wash, which uses deionized water so as not to scratch the vehicles. It also has power lifts so mechanic work can be done on site. The home has two gas stations — one for diesel, one for unleaded.

“The Primms wanted to build this big compound so they could do anything they wanted to. For example, when their son picked up motocross, they built a track in the back yard. When their daughter got into horseback riding, they built a barn and there are show horses in there now,” Zanganeh said. “And that was a big thing that appealed to Michael: Like Neverland, he was going to be able to do everything he wanted.”

A Primm family spokesperson said Wednesday the Primms had hoped the new owner — whether it was the Jackson family or someone else — would enjoy it as much as they had.

“We immensely enjoyed raising our children here,” Gary Primm recently told Vegas Magazine, a sister publication of the Las Vegas Sun. “Now the kids are grown up and have lives and places of their own, it’s time to let someone else enjoy the best place in Las Vegas.”

A place for the kids

It wasn’t just Jackson who fell in love with the estate. His children were excited at the thought of moving in, Zanganeh said.

"The kids went nuts (when they first walked in). We keep a lot of candy in the house ... Paris ran in here, ran right up to the dining room table, started eating jelly beans and said, 'Daddy, this is like Candyland!' which is a game they regularly played in the house. Paris loved that part of the house. Blanket just fell in love with all the animals we had in the barn."

The home offers an equestrian facility with eight stalls and two wash bays. It also has a separate "doggie villa," which the Primms had used to house their champion Rottweilers. In the barn, there are two horses, a pony and a pig. Jackson didn’t spell out specific plans to bring additional animals, but he did ask if the pony and the pig could stay.

“This is the first property where Michael not only came inside, saw the entire house — he felt really comfortable. And once Blanket went outside to explore the grounds, Michael ran after him, which is very strange. Michael didn't like to go outside, be in the sun, because of his allergies to the sun. He refused to go outside of most homes, and if he ever did go outside, he'd use an umbrella or a mask,” Zanganeh said. “This property, he felt very comfortable. He went right outside, walked all the way across the field to the barn, no mask, no umbrellas.”

A walk through the back yard of the home reveals a golf driving range, basketball and tennis courts, a greenhouse and a pool.

If the fountains, sculptures, water slide and rock crags weren’t enough, tucked behind a waterfall inside a cave is a grotto guest suite.

Zanganeh described it as “something very much out of ‘The Flintstones.’”

The secluded 1,000-square-foot living space, which has a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchenette, was going to be turned into a playhouse for the children, Zanganeh said.

An intimate, cozy estate

The coziness of the 15,000-square-foot home was something that appealed to Jackson — especially the dining room, which is designed to seat eight people.

“Michael enjoyed having family time: They'd dress up for dinner, they'd sit down at the dinner table, they'd always have all the holiday dinners at the table,” Zanganeh said. “It has room for an expansion — the doors open up to an outside area for entertainment — but Michael liked the fact that although the house is very big, many of the important rooms like the bedrooms or the dining rooms still felt very intimate for a family."

The only space where Jackson planned for a major modification was the indoor shooting range. Guns were of little interest to him, and the space suited him for a recording studio. It even had an area for a production room and a dance floor where he could practice for auditions.

The master bedroom has a “his” and “hers” wing, with separate bathrooms and a workout gym. The “his” bathroom has its own barber chair, and the gym has a sauna and a steam shower. Both sides have walk-in closets. Amenities on the ladies’ side include a whirlpool tub, a balcony for tanning outside and a bidet. (The in-home beauty salon is downstairs by the kitchen.)

"Michael wanted a nice master bedroom. That was a big thing for him. Sometimes he didn't want to get up right away — he took breakfast in the bedroom, he started taking business calls in the morning,” Zanganeh said.

The theater room was an important room for Jackson. In other homes, he would take meals or meetings in that room or would use it to entertain, Zanganeh said.

At the Primm estate, the theater room, with seating for 16 and three screens, doubles as a cigar room. It has an extensive ventilation system and fresh oxygen pumped in.

Jackson was also drawn to the neighborhood. Zanganeh said Jackson was concerned about who his neighbors might be. On Tomiyasu Lane, he was comforted by the fact that he had already formed relationships with several residents who lived nearby.

“Every time we went around, Michael wanted to know who the neighbors were, what they do for a living. In this neighborhood, he knew many of the neighbors. He's friends with the Sultan of Brunei, who built the home next door. He knows Wayne Newton, who has a property around the corner,” Zanganeh said. “It's a nice, secluded neighborhood. Very private. Everyone is very low key. But it's a very high net worth community.”

A part of Las Vegas history

Jackson lived in several leased homes in and around Las Vegas. He spent time at a Pahrump home last summer. He was rumored to be planning a show in Las Vegas at major Strip properties, but those rumors were put to rest with the announcement of Jackson’s London tour.

Click to enlarge photo

Michael Jackson blows kisses to fans from inside a vehicle just outside of Green Valley Ranch on Nov. 20, 2003. Jackson left Las Vegas on that morning and flew to Santa Barbara, Calif., to turn himself in to authorities on charges of child molestation. He landed at the Henderson Executive Airport that afternoon and drove around Las Vegas and Henderson in a black sport utility vehicle for more than two hours.

The King of Pop spent time in Las Vegas before his 2003 arrest on multiple counts of child molestation. After an overnight stay at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, Jackson left Las Vegas to surrender to police in Santa Barbara, Calif., on an arrest warrant. He had been seen numerous times in Las Vegas the week before.

He is said to have recorded music most recently at the Studio at the Palms last year, but nothing has been released.

The Primm Estate — now billed as Jackson’s “Wonderland” — was to have been his first permanent residence in Las Vegas.

Because of recent publicity regarding Jackson’s interest in the home, those who contact Zanganeh’s agency are heavily screened for their ability to purchase before a showing ever occurs. Zanganeh said he’s heard some strange stories, such as a woman in Africa claiming to be Jackson’s wife who wanted to move into the home as soon as possible.

He’s also gotten calls from Hollywood’s rich and famous, from royal families and from any number of society’s wealthy elite.

But what helped to lure Jackson was the history of the home.

"After looking at homes in The Ridges and MacDonald Highlands and other places where everything is new construction, they really lacked a lot of history,” Zanganeh said.

Jackson felt an attachment to the home because of its past: Since the Primms had moved in, it had seen visits from heads of state, including the Clintons, the Bushes and Nevada state leaders.

Boxer Mike Tyson, who has since moved away from Las Vegas, gave his neighbors a painting of himself when he moved in. That painting is still hanging on the wall.

And although Jackson never got the keys to the Primms’ castle, he’s got a chapter in its history.

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