News Article | 10/13/2004

Perot Inks Deal For Spring Gulch Acreage

Ross Perot Jr. said Monday it will take several years to determine the fate of 675 acres of meadows in Spring Gulch he purchased from the Mead family on Friday.Perot finalized the purchase of the 1,374-acre ranch and celebrated Monday by hosting a reception at Snake River Grill. His company, Hillwood, will development and sell 17 exclusive lots or ranches, each between 35 and 50 acres. Hillwood Bar BC Land & Cattle will lease the meadow property to the Mead family for continued grazing.Perot, who said Hillwood’s senior vice president David Hicks found the property, called the Bar BC a fabulous piece of land. A frequent visitor to the valley, he said he walked the slopes of Hansen Peak, also known as West Gros Ventre Butte, and was enchanted.”I was struck that every lot was outstanding,” Perot said.Plans call for the 17 lots to be obscure, he said. “It’s so low-profile and sensitively situated, few people [who drive by] will realize it’s developed.”The fate of the Spring Gulch pasture land, the heart of the Mead Ranch, in northern Spring Gulch remains uncertain, however. While Hillwood has talked with the Jackson Hole Land Trust, no easement has been granted or filed to prevent development on the floor of the gulch.Perot said it would take several years to decide what will be done with the property. Hillwood representatives have said they hope it will remain open; developers would like to see a single conservation buyer.But what happens depends on market forces, Perot said, plus the wishes of the 17 buyers of the lots now for sale.Perot, with a reputation for bare-knuckled business deals in Texas, said this development is different for Hillwood. While it has a resort in Hawaii, “We’ve never done a mountain resort development,” he said.Regarding the future of the meadow land, “We’re very open-minded,” Perot said.Hicks said Monday three lots already have sold. As Hicks said, however, buyers are remaining low-key.Four warranty deeds were recorded this week at the Teton County Clerk’s office transferring property from Hillwood. One was to Grosvenor Investments, a Nevada limited partnership c/o David Yeager of Arvada, Colo. Another to Teton Ranch Limited Liability Partnership also has Yeager as an agent. The other two deeds went to Rocking J LLC of Austin, Ind.. and Whispering River LLC of Tesque, N.M.Perot said he has not picked out a lot. He said his wife is usually deeply involved in such business and suggested she had not yet visited the property.While he did not commit to a homesite, “I know Jackson Hole fairly well,” he said.Hillwood bought the ranch from Brad, Matt and Muffy Mead, children of Mary Mead who died in a riding accident in 1996. The Meads are grandchildren of Cliff and Martha Hansen; Cliff was Wyoming governor and U.S. Senator from Wyoming.Estate taxes, the increasing difficulty of ranching in Jackson Hole, and a deisre to share their inherintance pushed the decision to sell, Brad Mead said earlier.”It was a difficult decision and it was one that took a long time for us to come to grips with,” Mead said Tuesday. “On balance, I think that we feel grateful and optimistic that this is going to work out well.”Price of the deal remains confidential, as do the price of the first lots purchased. Sources in the real estate industry said earlier this year that the listed price was $110 million.Peter Moyer, a Jackson attorney who has been critical of some types of development in the valley, said plans for the Bar BC do not bother him.”High end is part of the mix in the valley,” he said. “My problem is when you get too much of it and it gets to be dominant. The way Brad Mead and his family is doing it is the way to do it.”Mead said he wasn’t making any grand changes in life. “I will keep practicing law and keep raising cows,” he said.Realtor Tom Evans of Sotheby’s International handled the sale. He said there was lots of interest in the property. Ultimately, there was one buyer who met the Meads’ vision to limit development and seek preservation of the meadows.”I had people who wanted to develop it in mass planned unit development,” Evans said. “We had lots of buyers buyers who wanted to take it to the county hammer against the wall” of public opposition that was bound to arise.Evans said he would not commit to a buyer on the condition the county approve a development plan. In selling lots 35 acres or larger, Hillwood avoided subdivision regulations and public hearings. It did get approval for various plans for homesites, infrastructure improvements and environmental mitigation, Hicks said.Hicks said if the development has a security gate, it would be away from the Spring Gulch Road. “Security is important to us,” he said of Hillwood and its clients.Dave Spackman, who, along with Evans, is a Sotheby’s listing agent for the lots, said he has not seen more beautiful land. “It looks like your looking [at the Grand] through a magnifying glass,” he said.