NFL Owner Stan Kroenke Buys Texas Mega-Ranch Listed for $725 Millionby
Stan Kroenke, the billionaire owner of the NFL’s Rams, has agreed to purchase the historic W.T. Waggoner Estate Ranch in Texas, representatives of the ranch said on Tuesday. Terms for the purchase of the more than 520,000-acre estate were not disclosed. The ranch had been listed with an asking price of $725 million.
District Judge Dan Mike Bird in Vernon, Texas, allowed the family owners of the Waggoner Ranch to proceed in a private transaction with Kroenke, one of the wealthiest owners in professional sports and the owner of 11 ranches in Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, and British Columbia. The Waggoner went on the market in 2014 after Judge Bird ordered a sale to end more than 20 years of family litigation.
“This is an incredible opportunity and an even greater responsibility,” Kroenke said in a statement released by the Waggoner family and its representatives. “We are honored to assume ownership of the Waggoner—a true Texas and American landmark.”
Kroenke recently decided to move his National Football League team from St. Louis to a privately financed $1.8 billion stadium in Inglewood, Calif. Along with the Rams, he also owns the National Basketball Association’s Denver Nuggets, the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche, Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, and two-thirds of the English Premier League’s Arsenal soccer club. Kroenke’s fortune is worth about $6.2 billion, according to Bloomberg estimates.
The Waggoner is the largest U.S. ranch within one fence, marketed as measuring 520,527 acres (210,650 hectares), or 800 square miles (2,072 square kilometers). The sale to Kroenke will include additional acreage that brings the total to about 535,000. The King Ranch, based in South Texas, has more acreage spread over several parcels.
Located about 175 miles northwest of Dallas, the Waggoner sprawls over six counties and is bigger than Los Angeles and New York City combined. The asking price was more than four times the biggest publicly known sum fetched by a U.S. ranch, $175 million for a Colorado spread in 2007. With 6,800 head of cattle, the Waggoner is one of the 20 largest cattle ranches in the U.S. and is known worldwide for its quarter horses, which number 500. The ranch also has 1,000 oil wells, 30,000 acres of cropland, and an abundance of deer, quail, feral hogs, waterfowl, and other wildlife.
The Waggoner has been owned by the same family almost as long as Texas has been a state. Judge Bird’s 2014 order to sell the ranch ended litigation between opposing branches of the Waggoner family who couldn’t agree on what to do with the property. Bradley Wharton, a representative of certain Waggoner heirs, said, “We never lost sight of what we wanted in a new owner: a keen sense of tradition, a love of the land, and loyalty to the people who work here.”
Bernard Uechtritz of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty in Dallas and co-broker Sam Middleton of Chas. S. Middleton & Son in Lubbock, Texas, received about half a dozen serious offers, Uechtritz said. “This is not a plaything” for Kroenke, he said. “He’s really in the serious business of ranching and he considers this the crown jewel of all ranching.”
The ranch was developed by a cattle and horse man named W.T. Waggoner, son of Dan Waggoner, who started buying Texas acreage around 1850. By the 20th century, oil had been discovered on the ranch, and the Waggoner reverse-triple-D brand was a Texas icon. Trainloads of spectators came to watch President Teddy Roosevelt hunt wolves on the property. Will Rogers, the famous American humorist of the 1920s and early ’30s, visited frequently, sometimes playing polo.
(Updates with quotes from Waggoner family and broker, Kroenke details.)