- Kermit Brown
Rupert Murdoch Buys $200 Million Montana Ranch From the Koch Family
The media mogul and his wife, Jerry Murdoch, purchased a cattle ranch spanning about 340,000 acres near Yellowstone National Park.
E.B. Solomant & Candace Taylor | Wall Street Journal
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Jerry Murdoch, have purchased a Montana cattle ranch spanning about 340,000 acres from Matador Cattle Co., a subsidiary of Koch Industries. The price was roughly $200 million, making it the largest ranch sale in Montana history, according to people with knowledge of the deal.
Known as Beaverhead Ranch, the property is located in southwest Montana near Yellowstone National Park. It was originally purchased more than seven decades ago by Fred Koch, who founded the crude-oil-gathering business that grew into Koch Industries, according to Matador’s website. Koch Industries is now led by one of his sons, Charles Koch, who, with his late brother, David Koch, is known for backing Republican politicians and conservative causes. Koch Industries didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“This is a profound responsibility,” Mr. Murdoch said through a spokesman. “We feel privileged to assume ownership of this beautiful land and look forward to continually enhancing both the commercial cattle business and the conservation assets across the ranch.”
The Murdochs also plan to spend time on the ranch, the spokesman said, adding that they had been looking to buy a ranch for about a year. Mr. Murdoch is the executive chairman of News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal’s publisher.
“It is the largest ranch deal in Montana,” both in size and price, said Chance Bernall of Beaverhead Home and Ranch Real Estate, who represented the seller with Joel Leadbetter of Hall and Hall. Tim Murphy of Hall and Hall represented the Murdochs. The property was marketed privately.
Earlier this year, Climbing Arrow Ranch, a roughly 80,000-acre ranch near Bozeman, Mont., went into contract for around $136.25 million, the Journal reported.
Of Beaverhead Ranch’s 340,000 acres, 113,000 are deeded acres. The ranch includes grazing rights on around 226,000 leased acres.
Mr. Bernall said the property spans 50 miles, from north to south, crossing two separate counties. Mr. Murphy said the ranch is home to around 4,000 elk, 800 antelope and 1,500 mule deer. There is also a 28-mile-long creek stocked with trout. The property has 25 homes, mostly for employees. “This is a working ranch,” said Mr. Bernall.
Members of the Koch family, and entities they control, are among the largest landowners in the country, according to the Land Report, which tracks land deals. Brothers Charles and Bill Koch, as well as their late brothers Frederick and David Koch, also amassed a portfolio of high-end real estate in Palm Beach, Colorado and New York.
In recent months, Koch Industries has been selling off swaths of land in the West.
In March, it sold Spring Creek Ranch, a roughly 11,000-acre ranch in Kansas, according to listing agent John Wildin of Hall and Hall. He declined to disclose the purchase price. The property was listed for around $23.2 million last year.
In Texas, Matador Ranch was listed several months ago for $124.45 million, according to a listing from Sam Middleton of Chas. S. Middleton and Son. “The next generation doesn’t have much interest in the place,” he said of the family’s decision to sell.
Mr. Middleton said that over the past few months, roughly 100,000 acres of noncontiguous land comprising Matador Ranch has been sold off in chunks to different buyers. He declined to give a purchase price, but said the sale prices have ranged from $900 to $1,000 per acre. Roughly 27,000 acres remain available priced at $875 per acre, or $23.625 million.
“Hopefully we’ll have it sold in the next 35 to 40 days,” said Mr. Middleton, noting the strong land market. “A lot of people are wanting to get out in the country,” he said. “There’s been a lot of demand for rural real estate.”
In an email, Bill Koch said he had no information about the sale because he is no longer involved with Koch Industries. But he said soaring real-estate values likely made it a good time to sell. “I have found when I was at Koch Industries that there are no sentimental reasons to keep them, except for my father when he was alive,” he wrote.
The Murdoch family also owns a ranch in California. In 2013, Mr. Murdoch purchased an estate and winery in Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood after learning about the vineyard from an article in The Wall Street Journal. In Mr. Murdoch’s native Australia, the family owns Cavan Station, a roughly 25,000-acre sheep and cattle farm in New South Wales, according to the spokesman.