Live Like a Cowboy for $35 Million
Robert Burch always wanted to be a cowboy. When the serial entrepreneur and managing partner of the VC company Redbadge “had some luck financially” in the 1990s, he was finally solvent enough to realize his dream. (Burch is also, incidentally, Tory Burch’s former brother in law.) He spent months driving around Montana until he found the Hobble Diamond ranch in the south of the state, about an hour's drive from Bozeman, and then “pulled the trigger,” he said, buying the 9,000-acre property for what he says was less than $10 million.
Burch was thrilled; his wife Susan, less so.
“I think my wife wanted me to be happy, but I don’t think she wanted to be a cowboy,” he said during a phone interview. “She asked me if I was joking, because [the ranch] looked like an industrial park. ... She was crestfallen.”
His wife soon came around, however, and helped Burch embark on a building and landscaping effort to turn the ranch into something that even a noncowboy could love. “That’s why the house looks the way it does and the amenities are what they are,” Burch explained.
Now though, after expanding the ranch to more than 30,000 acres, the Burches are putting the property on the market for $35 million.
Whoever buys the ranch will find themselves in possession of full-time, working facilities for what Burch said is a “cow/calf operation,” where about 800 mother cows and 150 replacement heifers (young cows that haven't calved) give birth to around 700 calves a year, which are raised until they’re about 800 pounds, and then sold. “That’s how we make our money,” Burch said, noting that running a ranch is "not a way to get rich." The fields, both dry and irrigated, produce enough feed that the ranch is able to sustain its herd and sell the excess for profit.
The operation is run by four full-time cowboys employed by the ranch. Along with a cash salary, the cowboys each get a house on the ranch, free utilities, and “half a beef.” “It’s standard cowboy compensation,” Burch said. “They each get half a cow every year.”
At this point though, the ranch, with its machine sheds, tool shops, horse barns, and feed lot pretty much runs itself, which means prospective buyers will also be able to enjoy the more bucolic leisure activities the house and grounds have on offer.
The main house, which is situated on the Yellowstone River, which runs through the property, has six bedroom, seven bathrooms, and two half baths spread over 10,000 square feet. There’s a massive great room with 20-foot ceilings and fireplaces at both ends; in the basement is a sauna that has a baptismal font the Burches bought in Mexico, along with a massage room, billiards room, and a wine cellar.
The rest of the owner’s compound includes a bunkhouse that sleeps 12 and a separate two car garage, above which there are two more bedrooms. The accommodations, Burch said, “have a Relais & Chateau-style quality, small-hotel feel.”
Given the size of the ranch, which is about 12 miles long and 8 miles wide and includes irrigated fields, timbered foothills, and more than 1,600 of acres of grazing land, Burch said he stocked the property with “virtually every kind of motorcycle and off-road vehicle you can imagine.” There’s also a gear room that can outfit guests for activities that range from cross country skiing (which can be done on the property for days, if so desired), fly fishing in the river for rainbow trout, or bird shooting. The property, which Burch described as in “striking distance” from Yellowstone National Park, is frequented by elk, whitetail and mule deer, black bears, and mountain lions.
Burch says he plans to buy another, smaller ranch with the proceeds of the sale.
“I love going out and chasing the cows around,” he said. “I get to live out my childhood fantasies.”