The Real Deal Los Angeles

Tom Barrack’s messiah complex: Colony chief has a history of high-stakes rescues

After saving Michael Jackson from real estate debt, he gained a reputation
October 17, 2017 10:25AM

Neverland Ranch. From left: Tom Barrack, Michael Jackson (Credit: Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons)

If Tom Barrack’s Colony Capital succeeds in its quest to buy “all or a significant portion” of Weinstein Co., it won’t be the Trump chum’s first high-profile bailout of a controversial celebrity.

Barrack, who was chairman of President Trump’s inaugural committee and is his longtime friend, stepped outside his typical real estate investment wheelhouse when he paid for a $23 million loan on Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported. This allowed Jackson — who three years earlier was found not guilty of child molestation after a lengthy trial — a way out of his debt on the estate. Colony now owns the Santa Barbara property, which it listed earlier this year for $67 million — a major discount from its $100 million price tag two years ago.

Barrack also bought millions of dollars of debt from celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. He subsequently helped the acclaimed artist — who often comes under fire for controversial photos, including her nude-except-for-a-satin-sheet portraits of then-15-year-old Miley Cyrus for Vanity Fair in 2008 — raise the money back by promoting her work.

The Neverland Ranch bailout was a turning point for Barrack, his competitors told the Journal. Afterwards, the mogul began spending more time in the world of celebrities, creating a media and entertainment investment fund — with actor Rob Lowe as a partner. Barrack told New York Magazine in 2010 that “hundreds” of celebrities had reached out to him seeking financial support following the ranch purchase.

Amid a seemingly endless sea of allegations of sexual harassment and rape against Harvey Weinstein, Weinstein Co. fired the co-chairman earlier this month. It is not clear whether Weinstein would regain a role if Colony successfully buys it.

Barrack is not unfamiliar with the company. Colony was part of a consortium that bought Miramax from Walt Disney Co., which had bought it from Weinstein Co. Colony sold Miramax to Qatar-based BeIN Media Group in 2016. [WSJ]Hannah Miet