VERNON, TEXAS—Texas’ famed Waggoner Ranch made history once again today as its ownership passed from the descendants of founder W.T. “Tom” Waggoner to Stan Kroenke, American businessman, sports team owner and rancher. The terms of the sale, which was the first in the ranch’s storied history were not disclosed.
“For Stan Kroenke, ranching is a serious enterprise,” said Bernard Uechtritz, international real estate advisor to Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty in Dallas, who along with Sam Middleton of Chas. S. Middleton & Son in Lubbock, represented the Waggoner Ranch’s owners. “From our perspective, Stan was the ideal buyer. Not only did he have the financial resources to purchase and maintain the ranch, but he is a committed land steward who is passionate about improving the land and conserving it for future generations.”
According to Middleton, the family and shareholders encouraged the ranch brokers to find a buyer who would keep the historic ranch, which covers approximately 535,000 acres across six Panhandle counties, intact.
“While keeping the ranch whole was not a requirement, the family and shareholders made it clear it was their preference—and hope—that we would be able to keep the nation’s largest ranch under a single fence unbroken,” Middleton said. “Interestingly, all of our serious buyers wanted to keep the ranch and its legacy intact.”
On August 6, 2014, Middleton and Uechtritz were appointed by Judge Dan Mike Bird of the 46th Judicial District Court to market the ranch. After several months of intense preparation including extensive data gathering, the duo initiated an unprecedented global marketing effort in January 2015. Their efforts generated more than 900 qualified inquiries that continued up until February 9, 2016, when the court approved the sale.
“The level of interest was overwhelming, and eventually we showed the property to many different groups and individuals from foreign countries,” Middleton said. “What I learned from this experience is that wealthy foreign investors still consider the United States the best place to invest their money—and land, particularly in Texas, is considered a very, very good investment.”
The duo’s call for offers closed on October 25, 2015. Six qualified prospects were selected to make final presentations to the family and shareholders. From those presentations, the final buyer was selected. One of the biggest challenges was keeping the buyer’s identity secret until the transaction was finalized.
“This sale was a huge responsibility,” Uechtritz said. “We worked long and hard to keep Stan’s identity a secret and maintain confidentiality.”
He continued with a laugh, “It wasn’t easy because the only thing people agree on in West Texas is that nothing is a secret.”
The details of the deal were hammered out over the past six months. Joel D. Leadbetter from Hall & Hall in Bozeman, Montana, and Sam Connolly, general manager of Kroenke Ranches, represented Stan Kroenke. “A deal of this magnitude and complexity is not completed because of the brilliance of a single person,” Uechtritz said. “It was successful because we got good brokers involved and they worked closely with the exceptional teams representing the owners, the shareholders and the buyers. It was a team effort across the board.”
By all accounts, the results were worth the efforts.
Middleton said, “All sides are happy with the results. The family and the shareholders are pleased. It was a complicated deal done right with superlative results for those involved, those affected—and those of us who call Texas home.”
The new owner is committed to retaining all employees while infusing additional money into the ranch to modernize it, which is good news for the local community, Middleton said.
“Selling the Waggoner Ranch intact means everything,” Uechtritz said. “It means the investment value of Texas land is strong and vibrant. It means the cowboy way is not dead and won’t be for a long, long time. It means there are patriots and land stewards out there like Stan Kroenke—people who don’t have to invest their money in the land, but choose to because they care and want to make it better. Ultimately, it means this national treasure is in good hands.”