2011 Market Update: Chip Lenihan has been fly-fishing Colorado’s best waters for 40 years. His side gig? Running the Telluride office of Fay Ranches as lead broker. The Land Report turned to this former mayor of Telluride for an update on today’s recreational properties market.
How is that manifested?
Buyers are willing to sit back and wait until they get real value for their money.
Who’s driving today’s market?
The biggest part of my business is families. Men tend to drive the decision-making on hunting properties and ag land, and women trend more in the direction of resort sales, ones that are closer in to town and that feature more amenities. But come rain or shine it’s families who are looking to enjoy the sort of lifestyle you can only find out in the great wide open.
What’s been the biggest surprise of 2011?
The number of investors parking their money in land. The capital is out there. But after what happened in 2008, no one is in a hurry to put it in traditional markets.
Five years ago, land was a hot commodity. Everybody wanted to get on board before the train left the station. And that brought a lot of buyers with short-term horizons into our market. Today, investors recognize the value inherent in current markets. A good number of them are looking at land as a smart buy, one with proven returns, long range stability, plus big upside from a personal standpoint.
Public land. Do buyers want to border national forest or BLM, or should they steer clear?
Great question. if you’re scouting a potential property and it borders public land, it’s absolutely essential to determine how intensely it’s used. Are you up against an unused corner of a national forest? Great. That will add a 10% to 20% premium to the value of your property. Does a hunting outfitter operate a base camp right across your fence line that’s going to bring in 25 guns for deer and elk season? Might not be your cup of tea.
On August 17, Liberty Media CEO John Malone bought the 290,100-acre Bell Ranch, an event that qualifies as the largest single ranch sale since Ted Turner bought Vermejo Park from Pennzoil in 1996. Price and terms on the $83-million listing were not disclosed.
Odds are you already know New Mexico’s Bell Ranch. At 453 square miles, it’s kind of hard to overlook. But to focus on size alone is to overlook a much richer story. The Bell has been featured in countless Westerns and dramatically depicted on millions of Stetson hatboxes. If you’re old enough to remember when tobacco companies could advertise, the ranch’s mesas and pastures were the timeless backdrop in many a Marlboro print campaign. Few venues epitomize the American West like the gorgeous grasslands, stunning mesas, and rugged rimrock canyons surrounding the distinctive bell-shaped mountain a short ride north of the Canadian River.
The Bell Ranch is a place of lore and legend whose contemporary history dates back to an impossibly large land grant of some 656,000 acres by the Mexican government to Pablo Montoya in 1824. Only the hills know how long the Comanche, the Kiowa, and the Apache made camp along the banks of La Cinta Creek before the Spanish army officer petitioned Mexico City for his lands.
Almost two centuries have passed since Don Pablo took title to more than 1,000 square miles of what eventually became the New Mexico Territory. Its ideal setting—the ranch ranges in elevation from 4,200 to 5,600 feet above sea level—is more reminiscent of the African Serengeti than the Great Plains or the Llano Estacado. Top-notch cowmen such as the pioneering trailblazer Charlie Goodnight have long marveled at the ranch’s plentiful waters, its protein-rich grasses, and the temperate climate. The lure of this remote cattle kingdom is so strong that the Bell has enticed five formidable men to commit themselves to shepherding the ranch since 1933: Albert Mitchell, George Ellis, Don Hofman, Rusty Tinnin, and Bert Ancell, the general manager, who had 41 years of experience on the Bell. Half a dozen hands with an average of 15 years service on the Bell worked with Ancell.
This peerless legacy is one of the many priceless assets that make the Bell more than simply another big spread. Take, for instance, the ranch’s horse breeding program, which can be traced back to a remount herd used by the U.S. cavalry almost a century ago. The ranch has also developed a closed composite breed of cattle. Known as RedBell, the breed consists of carefully selected Red Angus and Hereford bloodlines, plus smaller percentages of Brahma and Gelbvieh. And of course there is also the ranch’s iconic one-iron brand. First registered in San Miguel County in 1875, it has been in continuous use ever since.
After more than a century in operation, the Bell was carved into six tracts and parceled off after the end of the Second World War. But for William Lane II, its legacy would have ended with this dissolution. In 1970, the chairman and chief executive of General Binding Corporation purchased the 130,000-acre headquarters tract near the center of the Montoya Grant, and over the next six years he dedicated himself to rebuilding the great ranch. Ultimately, he acquired a total of 290,100 acres, an astounding 44 percent of the original grant.
Lane and his family also put in place improvements that dramatically enhanced beef production. Seven large operating units are cordoned off by 342 miles of fence and connected by 530 miles of interior roads. Ninety miles of pipeline water 206 stock tanks and 117 wells and windmills. The end result is a world-class working cattle ranch that can support 5,000 animal units.
In 2006, the Lane family began its quest to find another steward for the Bell. Several leading brokerages marketed the property, including Mason and Morse Ranch Company and Orvis Cushman & Wakefield. But the Great Recession took its toll. The original asking price of $110 million was lowered to $99 million and then to $83 million in 2010 (not including livestock).
The one constant throughout this process was Patrick Bates of Bates Sanders Swan Land Company, who was brought on to consult for the Lane family in 2006; by 2010 he was the broker of record. In March, Ron Morris of Ranch Marketing Associates contacted him. Like Bates, Morris is a veteran ranch broker with an impressive C.V. His client was none other than John Malone, Liberty Media’s CEO and one of the most respected stewards of the land in Rockies. A new chapter in the history of the Bell was about to begin.
Download the 2010 Land Report 100 HERE.
Val Kilmer, star of Top Gun, Tombstone and Willow, has put his 5,970-acre Pecos River Ranch on the market for $33 million. John Watson of Orvis/Cushman & Wakefield has the listing.
The Pecos River Ranch features more than five miles of frontage on its namesake river. Kilmer’s 5,550-square-foot adobe home as well as an 1,800-square-foot caretaker’s home, additional guest homes, barns, garages, and outbuildings are included in the sale.
The ranch is located 8 miles from Pecos, 22 miles from Santa Fe, and 90 miles from Albuquerque.
Kilmer, who is rumored to be considering a run for governor of New Mexico, has owned the property for nearly 15 years. He previously listed portions of the ranch for sale in 2006, but found no buyers.
The biggest ranch on the market in America just got bigger. The heirs of William Lane, who assembled New Mexico’s Bell Ranch 40 years ago, have elected to include an additional 40,100 acres of canyon country and pastureland in the offering, which now totals 290,100 contiguous deeded acres or 453 square miles. Carrying capacity for the ranch is 5,000AU.
The new price for the Bell is $103 million – $99 million for the land and $4 million for the livestock and equipment – or $341 per acre, according to the Orvis/Cushman & Wakefield website. The price represents a 22 percent reduction below the original asking price. Contact John Watson or Rye Austin at 888-541-4300 for additional details.
Property Details include:
290,100(+/-) deeded acres in northeastern New Mexico featuring Bell Mountain, a dramatic butte punctuating the landscape.
Located east of Santa Fe primarily in San Miguel County.
The Canadian River flows through the ranch for over 13 river miles.
Ranch is adjacent to 9,600-acre Conchas Lake with lake house and boat storage.
Carrying capacity for cattle operation is 5,000AU.
Headquarters includes general manager residence, ranch offices, stables, barns, garage and storage facilities.
10,832-square foot, 8-bedroom Hacienda with swimming pool and tennis court.
Four cowboy camps across the property.
Bell Ranch airfield has storage for 100LL avgas and a large hangar for its 8,200′ x 75′ lighted dirt airstrip.