Billionaire Ranchers Love Texas
There are many ways to showcase a fortune, but few can rival and capture the rugged spirit and individualism of American liberty like a Texas ranch. The country may be clawing its way out of a recession, but entrepreneurship is spawning billionaires perhaps just a little less aggressively than salmon spawn in the freshwater rivers of their birth.
According to a March 2, 2015, Forbes article, wherein the magazine offered its 29th annual guide to the world’s richest people, the billionaire population has grown to a staggering 1,826, including 290 newcomers in 2014. A record number of people under the age of 40 are in the ranks ~ 46 of them led by Mark Zuckerberg. The youngest among them at age 24 is Evan Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat. The co-founders of Uber are in the billionaire ranks, and China brought 71 to the list. But the U.S. still dominates this unique league, and 65 percent are self-made billionaires. Only about 12 percent inherited their wealth.
The market-research firm Spectrem Group covers affluent markets from several perspectives, and it reports that wealthy persons attribute financial accumulation to frugality coupled with hard work, education, smart investing and taking risk. While most can and do take extravagant vacations, collecting cars, boats and jewelry isn’t a top priority. Horses, adventure, art and land investments are big among contemporary deep pockets.
The super rich didn’t get there by frivolously handling their dollars, and they are just as astute when it comes to buying property. The appeal of a ranch includes opportunities to ride the range, host colleagues, clients and friends and enjoy hunting and fishing. Billionaire buyers also look for a return on their investment beyond their own pleasure at the ranch. Some look for income from wildlife hunting fees. Others seek cattle operations or equestrian centers.
The 825,000-acre King Ranch in Texas has tours and a museum, breeds cattle and Quarter Horses, and runs a saddle shop and other enterprises. One hour west of Houston, the bed and breakfast inn at Lonesome Pine Ranch sits on 1,800 acres of wildflowers, American bison, horses and one of the country’s largest registered Texas Longhorn herds. Dude ranches in the Texas Hill Country host tourists from around the world.
The value of grazing and forage land rose 11 percent in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on the heels of averaging five percent the previous two years. Food prices are rising as affluence and demand in Asia expands, and many farms have appreciated in double digits each year except 2009 over the past decade. Ranches that have production capacity in the top five Texas crops ~ cotton, hay, sorghum, corn and wheat ~ are appealing.
Timber Creek Ranch, most recently valued at $15 million, sold at auction in May for the highest per acre price in the region around Lake Cypress Springs. The 346-acre luxury ranch drew bidders from as far away as China, and to date, the buyer and final price have not been disclosed. Camp Cooley Ranch and its 10,600 acres brought a $28.5 million price tag at auction a couple years ago. Surface and mineral/royalty rights were part of the package, and water rights are often at the heart of a huge ranch sale.
Texas ranches can pay their own way, and billionaires seek to keep them operating profitably amidst a big slice of Texas grandeur, luxury, indulgence and recreation. Additionally, ranch land is recognized as an investment class asset. For many, it’s the ranch ~ not the big city penthouse, European castle or mansion by the sea ~ that shapes the family legacy.
And financial data and details aside, no one can argue that it’s a fantastically fun diversion to ride the range, watch the sun set in a huge Texas sky, hunt, fish, fly in, fly out (some sport a private air strip), bring your friends and hang out where everything is larger than life and far from the hustle bustle of crowds, banks and buildings. Having a ball, bash or blast takes on new meaning when a billionaire buys some Texas land and a ranch for investment, relaxation and recreation. If you happen to be neighbors or run into them at the feed lot or local restaurant, just remember that they put on their pants one leg at a time, just like you.