News Article | 3/5/2004

Perot Inks Gulch Deal

Jackson Hole News & Guide03/05/04

PEROT INKS GULCH DEAL Hansen descendants agree to sell 1,300 acres to Dallas business mogul.

By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.A development company owned by Ross Perot Jr. has contracted with the Mead family to buy approximately 1,300 acres of the Lower Bar B C Ranch in Spring Gulch.Brad Mead, one of three family members who owns the Bar B C, also known as the Mead Ranch, said it could take some time for the sale to close. A representative for Perot’s Hillwood real estate development company, David Hicks, on Monday night confirmed the contract and said the ranch would be turned into a low-density residential project where cattle operations would continue. He said lots would be at least 35 acres and their layout would allow ranching on the valley floor.Hicks, who owns a home at Teton Pines, said the Dallas-based company is sensitive to community desires to preserve Spring Gulch, one of the last undeveloped tracts of ranch land in Jackson Hole. He said representatives have already spoken to the Jackson Hole Land Trust, one of the county’s leading preservation groups.”We’re very much aware of the feelings the Land Trust has and others have toward Spring Gulch,” Hicks said. “That’s what we intend to do in terms of Hillwood’s purchase of the Bar B C Ranch.”Brad Mead owns the property along with his brother, Matt, the U.S. District Attorney in Cheyenne who ranches near Laramie, and their sister, Muffy Mead-Ferro, an advertising copywriter and creative director who lives in Salt Lake City. Brad Mead said he believes the purchase will allow ranching to continue. “I expect to be raising cows up there in the foreseeable future,” he said.In addition to the hay meadows in the bottom of Spring Gulch, approximately half the property is on West Gros Ventre Butte. That upland is less valuable as agricultural land but important to wildlife, including a small herd of elk.Hicks said that while Hillwood might be allowed to develop 40 or more parcels on the ranch under county zoning rules, the company’s plans “wouldn’t be anywhere close to that.” Sources in the real estate community said 17 lots are planned.”We plan to keep the feel and appearance of the Bar B C Ranch,” he said. “We plan to continue a ranching operation there. We will work with the county on permitting this and getting their approval. We’re not going to try and go back and replat,” to a density greater than 35-acre parcels, he said.Perot, 45, is the CEO of Perot Systems and son of the self-made billionaire who twice ran for president. Hillwood is privately owned.Hicks said Perot Jr. has been to Jackson Hole and has friends and business associates here. They are among the CEOs of Forbes Fortune 500 companies, and similar types. “Jackson Hole is on a number of their radar screens,” Hicks said.Hillwood will sell “the finest homesites ever offered in Teton County,” Hicks said. ” As such, they’re going to attract an individual with high net worth who will value security, seclusion.”The ranch’s proximity to the Gros Ventre and Snake Rivers, Jackson Hole Airport and Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club make it ideal, Hicks said. It also has views of the Tetons from some locations and is next door to Grand Teton National Park.”You have some amenities there,” Hicks said.Neither Hicks nor Mead would reveal the contracted sale price. Sources in the real estate industry said last summer when the ranch was put on the market that it listed for $110 million. The Mead family decided not to restrict development on the property when putting it up for sale, but neither Mead nor Hicks would say what vehicle would assure continued ranching.Jackson Hole Land Trust staff attorney Tim Lindstrom said he had talked to Hillwood last year. “I’m hopeful what Brad said will come about,” he said.While Hicks said Hillwood has undertaken a high-end development on Maui, its bread and butter has been urban and industrial projects. Preserving pasture land has not always been a priority.Perot Jr. got his start developing 2,500 acres of his family’s pasture land in the Dallas/Fort Worth area into an industrial airfield, warehouses and factories known as Alliance, according to an article in Business Week. Privately held, but developed with the help of $152 million in public funds, the complex now covers 15,000 acres, is home to more than 100 companies and a NASCAR speedway.The company Web site said Hillwood’s largest project combines the commerce center of Alliance with the rural setting of the Circle T Ranch and the wired community of Heritage into “one master-planned community where people can live, work and play.”In 1996 Perot bought the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and used it as leverage to ask the city to put up $125 million for a downtown revitalization project, Business Week reported. The new American Airlines Center arena also is home to the Dallas Stars National Hockey League team. Hicks called the complex “the finest arena in the country.”Surrounding the venue is Victory, a 70-acre complex with seven million square feet of high-density retail, residential, and office space in downtown Dallas. Public funding was narrowly secured by referendum that imposed a tax on hotel rooms and rental cars.In the Business Week article, author Andrew Park called Perot “one of the most formidable developers in Texas.” Hillwood specializes in megaprojects “requiring big backers, political muscle, and piles of public dollars.” A hallmark of the firm is the elder Perot’s “famously stern policies,” the story said.”It’s the kind of company that only someone with a name like Perot could run,” Park wrote in his 2002 profile.While Hillwood might be a juggernaut of development, it also is responsible for one of every 15 jobs in the Fort Worth area, a company study said. Hicks said Hillwood can respond to community priorities.”We’re just a very environmentally sensitive company,” he said.The Mead Ranch in Spring Gulch abuts other large ranches, including property owned by the Lucas family and descendants of Paul Walton, some of which is preserved by conservation easement. To the south lies the Hansen Ranch, home of the Meads’ grandparents, Cliff and Martha Hansen. Cliff Hansen is a former Wyoming Governor and U.S. Senator. His ranch was not part of the sale.The family has been ranching in Jackson Hole for more than 100 years, and Brad Mead was the fourth generation in his family to trail cattle north from Spring Gulch to summer pasture in Grand Teton National Park. In 1897 Mead’s great grandfather, Peter Christofferson Hansen, homesteaded land in Spring Gulch.Spring Gulch has been the target of conservation efforts, and about 1,500 acres have been protected by scenic easements that restrict development. The gulch area between East and West Gros Ventre buttes is made up of perhaps 5,000 acres of private ranch land.The Meads inherited the ranch following the death of their mother, Mary, in a riding accident in 1996. Estate taxes and the increasing difficulty of ranching in Jackson Hole helped push the decision to sell, Mead said earlier. Also, sale of the property was the only way the descendants could share equitably in their inheritance.Respond to this article by e-mailing [email protected]