By PATRICIA SHIPP and LEE HANNON
Michael Jackson has fueled rumors that he’s leaving the U.S. by selling his Beverly Hills mansion.
The sale of the $18 million hilltop home which overlooks L.A. comes just weeks after the cash-strapped star sold off his $35 million Neverland ranch in Los Olivos, Calif.
The National Enquirer understands the deal is done and the King of Pop is said to be “delighted” at the quick sale of the L.A. mansion, which made him a $5 million profit.
Now Jackson, whose financial assets in this country have dwindled, is free to escape the U.S. and the trauma of the recent molestation charges against him.
Jackson, who was acquitted of the charges at trial, is said to favor Switzerland as his chosen destination.
His long-time friend Elizabeth Taylor has a home there. Liz recently admitted she would welcome Jackson, 46, with open arms if he wanted to rebuild his life with her in Gstaad — and it appears he is determined to start again abroad.
A source said: “By the time the trial was over he was so mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted that he wanted to just cut all ties and just step back to see what he wants to do next. Michael is very bitter and it’s going to take him a long time to get over what he’s just been through.
“He doesn’t want his children growing up hearing their father being called ‘Wacko Jacko’ or ‘child molester’ so he wants to leave to protect them.
“Michael hasn’t made any solid decisions yet but getting rid of the two homes leaves him free to make future choices without being tied down and having to wait for the paperwork to go through.”
Sources have told The National Enquirer that Jackson was undergoing a sort of “private rehab” at the $30 million home of his old friend, tycoon Ron Burkle, in La Jolla, Calif. The 50,000-square-foot house boasts five family bedrooms, four guest suites, a tennis court, billiard and video rooms, a gym and an 8,000-squarefoot 30-car subterranean garage.
One source revealed that maintenance workers at the cliff-top retreat, which is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on three sides, have been barred from entering the property because Jackson is at the residence.
The source added: “These guys go every week. But this time they said they couldn’t go in because Michael was undergoing one-on-one private therapy there.
“They returned a couple of days later but were only allowed to do their job under constant escort — and one of the workers told them Jackson was still inside.”
Since his 2003 arrest, the 5 ft, 11 in. pop star has reportedly dropped from more than 120 pounds to a frightening 97 pounds, sources say.
Even his attorney Tom Mesereau Jr. voiced concern about his weight following the not-guilty verdict and remarked: “I was very worried about his condition. He lost a lot of weight, he cannot sleep.”
When asked for comment about Jackson undergoing such a “rehab” at Burkle’s house, Burkle’s spokesman said: “There is no truth in the story.” But an insider insisted Jackson arrived at the estate not only to rest up after the trial but to get help with his problems.
Jackson must clean up his act in order to pocket up to $4 million for his live TV “tell all.” Several organizations are bidding for the right to screen the interview the whole world wants to see. Said another source: “Michael needs the money badly — that’s why he wants to do a quick tellall interview. But his people know that he needs to get back on his feet first.
“The last thing they want him to do is to put his foot in his mouth again by saying something stupid — like he did on the Martin Bashir TV documentary when he admitted he allowed these small children to sleep in his bed and started this nightmare.
“Burkle has also been trying to help Michael sort through his finances. He’s a very smart and charitable guy and the type of guy Michael needs because like everything in his life, his finances have been pretty screwed up.”
— Additional reporting by Robin Mizrahi, David Wright and Michael Glynn