Billionaire Stan Kroenke’s landholdings—estimated at 1.38 million acres—recently grew by a scant 11,260 deeded acres with the purchase of the Difficulty Creek Ranch near Medicine Bow, Wyo.
And, they also grew by a whopping 510,000 acres with the purchase of the W.T. Waggoner Ranch in Texas.
His large swaths of real estate in Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, Texas and British Columbia, Canada, are operated as working cattle ranches, though Kroenke also buys land for investment and recreation purposes.
Worth an estimated $7.6 billion by Forbes, Kroenke has gained much of his public fame by acquiring professional sports teams, including the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Rams. He is also well known among those keeping tabs on ranch and farm real estate, including The Land Report.
With the purchase of the Waggoner ranch, Kroenke becomes the country’s fifth-largest private landowner (the author of this story is no relation to the Waggoner ranch estate).
Though the purchase of the mega-sized Texas ranch made splashy national and international news, Kroenke’s biggest land holding is his Q Creek Land & Livestock Co. in south-central Wyoming, which has grown to more than 550,000 acres.
Kroenke has acquired about 10 ranches including Difficulty Creek to assemble the Q Creek outfit, which he claims is the largest contiguous ranch in the Rocky Mountains.
Just how big is Q Creek Land & Livestock? It stretches some 50 miles east to west and 35 miles north to south, keeping ranch manager Jeremy Olsen and six full- and part-time workers in the saddle and on the range (this doesn’t include staff that oversees commercial hunting and fishing).
“The ranch is making a profit,” says Olsen, who notes that he and his help annually run about 2,000 cow-calf pairs and 8,000 yearlings and put up hundreds of tons of grass hay.
“We get to do lots of cowboy work, my favorite thing,” he notes.
Olsen and wife Carrie, who have two children, want to someday own their own ranch.
“I think we can make that happen by building a cowherd and leasing grass,” he says. “Until then, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing. We love the work, and it’s a great way to raise a family.”
$5 million price tag
Difficulty Creek Ranch, though only one small piece of Kroenke’s Q Creek operation, was listed for $5 million, or $444 per deeded acre, says Ranch Marketing Associates co-owner Ron Morris.
“It was a strong sale,” notes Morris, who represented the sellers, a couple who maintain residences in Wyoming and California. “They had a lot of enjoyment out of their ranches and decided it was time to sell.”
In addition to the 11,260 deeded acres are 9,601 Bureau of Land Management, 800 State of Wyoming and 575 private lease acres, along with 25 miles of underground pipeline and stock tanks, two homes, a hunting lodge and other amenities.
Morris says his clients, who wish to remain anonymous, also parted with their 1,348-acre Deer Creek Ranch in nearby Saratoga, Wyo. It was listed for $2.5 million, or $1,854 per acre. Amenities including a log home, two log cabins, mountain views and two miles of creek frontage helped attract an out-of-state buyer seeking a recreation property.
$725 million price tag
The Waggoner ranch, which spans six Texas counties and was on the market for the first time since being established in 1849, was offered at $725 million (the selling price was confidential).
“As with all of our ranch properties, the land comes first. We are excited about integrating this second-to-none ranch with our ranch holdings in the United States and in Canada,” says Sam Connolly, general manager of the U.S. division of Kroenke Ranches. “This acquisition ties in perfectly with our cattle, wheat, horse and natural resource operations. We look forward to learning from and building on the remarkable heritage of this crown jewel of ranching.”
Hall and Hall represented Kroenke.
“Working with Stan and his team at Kroenke Land and Cattle to help him build such an extraordinary, multi-faceted agribusiness operation has been a high point for all of us at Hall and Hall,” says a partner in the firm, Joel Leadbetter. “Knowing that incredible history of the Waggoner will be shepherded by such a dedicated steward brings all of us tremendous satisfaction.”
Tip of the glass
As an interesting aside, Kroenke and Charles Banks in 2006 purchased the Screaming Eagle winery in California for a reported $30 million. Their partnership was dissolved in 2009, leaving Kroenke fully in charge, according to Wine Cellar Insider.
There is a waiting list to become a Screaming Eagle member; however, that doesn’t prevent you from purchasing one of their Cabernet Sauvignons at auction, as long as you’re willing to pay $1,400 and up per bottle (“Second Flight” bottles are available for under $1,000).