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SPLITTING UP: Four different buyers acquired the 49,000-acre Cato Crazy Woman Ranch in north-central Wyoming.

Legacy working ranch brings $15.5 million

Broken up for four buyers in 2015, real estate agents say as a contiguous property, the ranch might have brought the same today.

In 2015, one of Wyoming’s largest ranches sold, and three brokers believe the Cato Crazy Woman Ranch, had it remained intact, would sell for nearly the identical price today.

They agreed that the state’s ranch real estate market has remained relatively flat since early 2016, which might provide some buying opportunities for those wanting to expand.

The approximate 49,000-acre Cato ranch near Buffalo, Wyo., was originally listed for $18.8 million by Clark and Associates Land Brokers, but was reduced to $17.5 million after no buyers came to the plate.

The ranch eventually sold for a combined $15.5 million (18% below the original asking price), but this hinged on breaking it apart to attract four different buyers, according to brokers familiar with the transaction.

“Had the ranch stayed intact, it probably would have sold for about the same amount because it’s hard to assemble that many contiguous acres today,” a broker says. “A very large block of deeded land holds its value quite well. It’s an economy of scale.”

The ranch was owned by the Cato family, which operates more than 1,000 women’s retail fashion stores in 30-plus states under the Cato Fashions name.

The operation consisted of 44,377 deeded acres, and 5,000 acres in state and Bureau of Land Management lease.

4 buyers
Here is a list of the buyers.

• 49 Ranch LLC: Brothers David and Andy Belus bought 16,647 deeded acres. They retained the majority of the acreage, which was a nice add-on to their existing operation, but sold a small portion in 2016 to another local ranch family.

• Hip Investments LLC: Priscilla Welles bought 15,837 deeded acres as an add-on to her family’s existing ranching operation.

• Tear Drop Cattle Co. LLC: Duane Stranahan III of Bozeman, Mont., bought 7,301 deeded acres.

• Watko Resources LLC: Ian Welles, son of Priscilla Welles, bought 4,592 deeded acres in an IRS 1031 Exchange involving property that Ian owned in Texas.

“The Cato Crazy Woman Ranch was 100% working ranch lands, all shortgrass dryland range,” a broker says.

Though it was unfortunate that this legacy ranch was broken into pieces, the broker adds, “It was nice that the owners of two local cattle ranches could expand their operations and spread out overhead by buying more land.”

The 44,377 deeded acres averaged $349 per acre.

The ranch was listed at 1,000 animal units. Among the features is year-round water, with Crazy Woman Creek flowing through 10 pastures. Reservoirs and wells provide water to the remaining rangeland through highly engineered water development.

Before the ranch was split up, it was approximately 13 miles long and 9 miles wide, encompassing nearly 80 contiguous square miles.

Waggener writes from Laramie, Wyo.

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