Luxify looks to link China and King of Pop

Updated: 2015-12-03 10:32

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York(China Daily USA)

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Michael Jackson's music has been heard all over the world, and now buyers in China have a chance to own a piece of the late pop singer's past.

Formerly known as Neverland Ranch, the 2,700-acre site in Los Olivos, California, is now called Sycamore Valley Ranch. The estate has a swimming pool, two lakes, a 50-seat movie theater, tennis and basketball courts, a railroad track, six bedrooms and a hefty price tag.

The California ranch first went on the market in May for $100 million. Jackson bought the property for $19.5 million in the late 1980s.

The ranch is now owned by Michael Jackson's estate and Colony Capital, a Los Angeles real-estate investment firm that has a 12.5 percent stake.

But after offering the property for eight months, the owners are starting to look to Asia to find a potential suitor. Luxify, an online-to-offline marketplace for luxury goods, is hoping it can help find a buyer.

"The Neverland Ranch was brought to Luxify via one of our subsidiaries," said Alexis Zirah, co-founder of Luxify, in an email. "It's one of the first times it has been marketed in Asia."

Zirah's firm has had a "strong focus on China" and received several serious inquiries from families and private bankers in Hong Kong on behalf of investors from the Chinese mainland.

"We are confident we can identify and bring the right profile of interested buyers to the broker we are working with for Neverland," Zirah wrote. "My view for Neverland is that Chinese buyers love a piece of history and they want something of unique value.

"Therefore, we have the right brand positioning to attract sellers of luxury goods and to attract the right audience," he added.

Zirah said Luxify is running digital ads and also has a marketing team in Shanghai to promote the property.

On Oct 27, Alibaba's Taobao website held a one-day auction for the listing with a starting price of $79 million.

The auction received more than 60,000 views but only one person placed a deposit of 50,000 yuan ($7,813) for the chance to bid. He ultimately turned down a formal offer to buy the estate.

The estate, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles, was named after the fantasy island that was home to Peter Pan in the written works of Scottish author J.M. Barrie. It is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, known for its wineries.

Luxify, which launched in November 2013, sells new, vintage and pre-owned luxury goods. The platform allows shoppers to engage directly with people looking to sell luxury goods but requires buyers and sellers to connect offline to complete a transaction.

The company, based in Hong Kong with branches in Singapore, the Chinese mainland and the United Kingdom, also works with third-party experts in Hong Kong to ensure authenticity of its goods.

Sellers sign up and submit photos of their offerings. A listing fee is tallied in proportion to the item's value and the selling process begins. Nearly 70 percent of Luxify's user base comes from Asia, Zirah said. The company has an inventory of nearly 11,000 products with a value of about $3 billion, he told China Daily.

"In past 12 months, [Chinese buyers] spent almost $30 billion on mostly residential properties in the US, which represents growth of 35 percent from 2014," Zirah said. "An interesting trend with Chinese buyers of US properties is their average amount spent, which is about $800,000 as opposed to $345,000 for American citizens. In other words, [the Chinese buyers] invest in the high-end of the market."