Business - Little Jennie Ranch

See MH for caption

See MH for caption

Most people who buy an expensive piece of western Wyoming hope for nothing but a place to kick back and relax, far from urban life and the responsibilities of being rich.

The Little Jennie Ranch offers all that and more — the more being a big cattle ranching operation with a respectable income. Besides the big sky and wide open spaces, you can run a couple thousand head.

“It’s an incredibly productive ranch,” said Richard Lewis, the broker who has the ranch on the market. “It runs over 1,200 mother cows and produces 3,000 tons of hay, which is a lot of hay in that area. … It’s a profitable business.”

How profitable? Lewis estimated the ranch, due largely to the cattle operation, grosses more than $2 million a year.

The 3,011-acre ranch lies to the east of Bondurant and is about 30 miles from Jackson. It went on the market in the past two weeks for $45.5 million. That’s a considerable head-turner in itself: The asking price is down $24 million since the Little Jennie was offered in 2010.

Owner Stan Thomas, a Georgia real estate developer, paid about $48 million for the ranch in 2005, but he now needs cash for other things.

“He tried to resell it around 2010 for $69.5 million, and had it on the market for about a year,” broker Lewis said. “But obviously that was during a really bad market.”

Thomas is “a very large developer nationally and internationally, and he got hit as well,” Lewis said. “He and his family have decided to direct their resources toward other projects.”

The Little Jennie and its many buildings are along Dell Creek Road, which heads east from Bondurant near the Elkhorn Bar and Grill. As you drive up Dell Creek Road “you will be on the ranch within about a half mile, both sides of the road,” Lewis said, “and then you drive another mile and a half to the entrance to the ranch headquarters.”

The ranch was assembled from several homesteader parcels in the 1950s, and the main house was built in 1954.

Jack Kranenberg, a longtime Jackson home builder and the man responsible for the look of the Cowboy Bar’s interior, built the 4,000-square-foot cowboy fantasy house, a place that’s sturdy and authentic but with a bit of Western whimsy, including lots of burl wood. The house has five bedrooms and three baths and is neighbored by two two-bedroom guest cabins, a caretakers’ house, two new barns and other buildings used in running the ranch. Cabins built by the original homesteaders remain on the land.

Backed up against national forest, the ranch is in a beautiful setting, Lewis said.

“You’ve got the Sawtooths and a section of the Gros Ventres staring you right in the face, along with about 8 miles of Dell Creek,” he said. “It’s truly jaw-dropping — you have a lack of adjectives. … It’s one of those few properties that looks like the set of one of those iconic Western movies.”

The ranch has no conservation easements, which Lewis called a “huge opportunity” for the next owner. Even without the tax advantages of a potential conservation easement, he said, the ranch is a strong investment.

“It’s going to be bought by somebody who has an appreciation and a love for this kind of ranch and who wants a real operating ranch,” he said. “But it’s also a good place for somebody to park a substantial amount of cash.”

Lewis is an associate broker at Lewis Duerr Grassell, one of the sales groups at Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates, the Christie’s associate in Jackson.

He said that in the wake of the Great Recession the market for high-end ranches “is progressively hotter by the day” and that he’s already shown the Little Jennie three times, with more appointments set.

Contact Mark Huffman at 732-5907 or mark@jhnewsandguide.com.

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