Julien’s Auctions seemed to have literally struck gold when it was chosen by Michael Jackson to sell his Neverland Ranch possessions, including his famous gilded throne.
However, the West Hollywood auction house never heard a single bid after Jackson changed his mind and the event was canceled a few months before the singer’s untimely death in June 2009.
Now, in an odd but profitable twist, the company has become the No. 1 source of authentic Jackson memorabilia – courtesy of items consigned by the singer’s family and friends.
In fact, Julien’s has sold about $4 million worth of his stuff, making Jackson its single largest earner.
“Mostly it comes from family and friends parting with things Michael gave them that they would never have sold while he was alive,” said owner Darren Julien.
Such items include a black 1985 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL Jackson presented to an aunt, Michelle Jackson, years ago for her birthday. The aunt, now 71, said that she rarely drove the car because “people knew it was Michael’s and I’m a very private person.”
So the Mercedes – which Julien believes is the last car actually driven by the King of Pop – sat in the aunt’s Lompoc garage for years while the entertainer paid for its maintenance and insurance. After the superstar’s death, his aunt and her husband decided to sell it because they couldn’t afford the upkeep.
The car drew $104,000 from a Texas museum that put it on display. Also sold on the auction block by Jackson’s aunt were two oil paintings that Michael Jackson did as a child; one sold for $20,000, the other for $30,000.
The aunt believes that her nephew would have approved.
“He was always very generous, and he knew that we’re not rich,” she said.
Other items recently sold through Julien’s by Jackson’s friends and relatives include the jacket he wore at his 1996 wedding to Debbie Rowe (which brought in $65,000); another jacket sported during a 1999 meeting with Nelson Mandela ($70,000); an autographed jacket worn on the “Bad” tour ($270,000); and a glove worn during the star’s first moonwalk performed in 1983 ($420,000).
Last year, the auction house received an undisclosed settlement from Michael Jackson after spending nine months and $2.5 million cataloguing and preparing for the canceled original auction.
But in the end, Julien’s – which takes a 20 percent cut of each sale – benefited greatly from its brush with the star.
“It raised our profile significantly,” said Executive Director Martin J. Nolan. “I look up every night and say, ‘Thank you, Michael Jackson.’ ”