Earlier this week, DTN put the spotlight on farmland when we discussed the outlook for cash rents in 2022 and ways farmers can tip negotiations in their favor to control the impact to their bottoms in our “Keep the Good Times Rolling Series.” You can read that story here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….
While we think cash rent conversations this fall will be an important part of farmers’ ability to set themselves up for profitability, another large land sale caught our eye this week. Marlboro cigarette maker Altria Group Inc. (through its better-known subsidiary Philip Morris USA) sold its 18,000-acre cow-calf operation and dude ranch near Clyde Park, Montana.
Marlboro’s Crazy Mountain Ranch was often used for corporate events as well as a prize in annual contests for loyal customers. Who wouldn’t want an all-expenses-paid trip to a beautiful Montana ranch complete with an Old Western Town with 20 buildings, including a saloon, hotel and spa? One of the largest properties in the area, locals generally regarded the dude ranch “as a quirky but generally benign and light-on-the-landscape operation that was hit pretty hard by COVID-19,” according to a Montana Free Press article exploring the future of the Crazy Mountains. (You can read that fascinating history here: https://montanafreepress.org/….)
The buyer is a subsidiary of privately-owned investment and asset management firm Cross Harbor Capital Partners, and its reputation is a bit more complicated. The private equity firm bought the Yellowstone Club out of bankruptcy in 2009, and over the course of six years, converted it to a residential resort subdivision where properties sell for $2,500 to $3,000 per square foot. Cross Harbor also owns two other luxury communities in the area, and since Marlboro’s ranch is in a part of the county that isn’t zoned, there are concerns about similar development. The equity firm has also been party to several controversial proposed land swaps with the U.S. Forest Service, according to the Montana Land Source. (You can read that here: https://mtlandsource.com/….)