The spectacular 18,500-acre Sun Ranch in Madison Valley, a showcase for eco-friendly real estate development, has been bought by the CEO of a multinational mining company, the Bozeman Chronicle reports.
The Montana ranch, a blend of conservation, development and sustainability, was put on the market last spring by owner Roger Lang for $55 million. The list price as of last Friday had dropped to $42 million.
In an interview last April, Lang told New West he decided to sell the property to free up capital for his ongoing ranch conservation efforts in Montana and elsewhere in the West.
“Ninety-eight percent of Sun Ranch is protected by conservation easements,” said Lang, who made his fortune in the tech business before turning his attention to conservation. “The business plan was to sell eight to 10 home sites. But we decided that rather than battle the recession and make the business plan work, we’d take some capital off the table and put it to work buying other ranches.
“These next 3-4 years are critical from a conservation perspective,” Lang added, noting that the economic downturn was making property cheaper and slowing the pace of development.
According to Bozeman Chronicle reporter Daniel Person, Lang’s property was purchased on Friday by Sun Ranch Partners, managed by Richard C. Adkerson, the CEO of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, one of the world’s leading producers of gold and low-cost copper. Adkerson, 62, is rated by Forbes magazine as one of the nation’s highest paid executives, making $38.6 million in compensation last year.
Adkerson’s newly-purchased property near Yellowstone National Park is described by the real estate listing as “an awe-inspiring masterpiece of nature representing one of the last remaining balanced ecosystems in North America.” Elk, moose, grizzly and black bear, mule and whitetail deer, mountain goats, big horn sheep, wolverines, mountain lions, and pronghorn antelope roam the landscape. The Madison River feeds three creeks on the ranch, the former home of actor Steven Seagal.
Lang, who bought the property from Seagal in 1998, protected the majority of it with conservation easements that stay in place no matter who owns it. Lang told New West he would not have sold Sun Ranch now if the easements had not been in place.
Last year Lang purchased the 7,000-acre Schroeder Ranch south of Missoula, near the site of the proposed Bitterroot Resort. That tract is now being restored and a development plan created which also calls for conservation easements and sale of a limited number of home sites.
Even in the recession, well-heeled home buyers are looking for quality-of-life landscapes: places where they can see wildlife, go fishing and skiing, and play outdoors, as Lang told a New West conference last year. “Wealthy, high-end home-buyers subsidize wildlife conservation.”
An irony that can’t escape mention: gold and copper mining can be some of the most environmentally unfriendly endeavors in the world. Adkerson’s company is not complaint-free. In 2006, BusinessWeek noted that an influential environmental group in Indonesia accused one of Freeport’s local operating companies of improperly dumping more than 1 billion tons of residue in local waterways, among other charges. Adkerson denied the claim and told BusinessWeek that Freeport’s practices were responsible and lawful.