Thursday, December 13, 2012

Billionaire brothers buying Montana ranches

Near where the borders of Fergus, Musselshell and Golden Valley counties meet south of the Little Snowy Mountains, two billionaire Texas brothers have quietly collected more than 177,000 acres of ranch land in the last two years. But that’s only a portion of the property that Farris, 60, and Dan Wilks, 56, have accumulated in Montana. In all, they own more than 276,000 acres in seven counties in the eastern half of the state. That's 431 square miles, more than half the size of Silver Bow County. Owning such large amounts of land puts them in the big league of Montana landowners. Turner Enterprises, owned by former media mogul Ted Turner, has 149,000 acres in Montana holdings. It was announced last week that Stanley Kroenke, a billionaire who is married to a Wal-Mart heir, bought the 124,000-acre Broken O Ranch near Augusta that had been listed for $132 million. According to Forbes magazine, Kroenke also owns the Cedar Creek Ranch near Ennis and the PV Ranch near Hysham. The Wilkses’ presence hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially in Fergus County where they’ve purchased 79,000 acres from 10 landowners in the last two years. The brothers’ biggest acquisition was the fabled 62,000-acre N Bar Ranch, for $45 million. That deal made national news in 2011, partly because the property was then owned by software billionaire Tom Siebel. Another landowner the Wilks brothers have bought out is Theodore Roosevelt IV, who had a log lodge, timber and grazing land between the south and north forks of Flatwillow Creek. They also bought property from the Sunlight Ranch Co., owned by Earl Holding of Sinclair Oil. This summer, the brothers hosted a barbecue at the N Bar Ranch headquarters, inviting the locals to eat, drink and chat. “They seem to be really nice folks to me, down-home and friendly,” said Tom Lowry, who owns ranch land at the east and west edges of the N Bar on Flatwillow Creek. He went to the barbecue and talked to the brothers. “Both of them were very cordial,” he said...more

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