Billionaire media honcho Rupert Murdoch and his wife Jerry have quietly picked up a roughly 345,000-acre working cattle ranch in southwest Montana from the Koch family, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Situated south of the city of Dillon, near Yellowstone National Park, the off-market transaction netted the Koch Industries subsidiary Matador Cattle Co. a jaw-dropping $200 million in what is reportedly the priciest and largest land deal in the state’s history — dwarfing the sale earlier this year of the approximately 80,000-acre Climbing Arrow Ranch near Bozeman, which went under contract for around $136.5 million after a bidding war.
“This is a profound responsibility,” Murdoch told The Journal via a spokesperson regarding the purchase of Beaverhead Ranch. The couple, who have been seeking to buy a ranch for about a year, said they plan to spend time on the premises, and to continue enhancing Beaverhead’s commercial cattle business and conservation efforts.
Originally acquired more than 70 years ago by Fred Koch, founder of the crude-oil gathering business that later became Koch Industries, the property houses the Matador Cattle Ranch, a division of Koch Industries, currently led by Fred’s son Charles Koch. About one-third of the land’s acres are deeded, and there are grazing rights on about 226,000 leased acres. The ranch houses nearly 7,000 cow/calf pairs, along with diverse wildlife population, including about 4,000 elk, 800 antelope and 1,500 mule deer. There’s also a 28-mile-long trout pond and 25 homes, mostly for employees.
In 2002, Beaverhead became the first U.S. ranch to receive Wildlife at Work certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council for outstanding natural resource management initiatives.
Murdoch, 90, serves as executive chairman of News Corp. — owner of Fox News Channel, The Wall Street Journal and The Times of London — and has an estimated net worth of $21.6 billion, per Forbes. The couple also maintain a 13-acre, $28.8 million estate and winery known as Moraga Vineyards in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel Air, plus a roughly 25,000-acre sheep and cattle farm in Murdoch’s native home of Australia.
As for the Koch family and their related entities: In March, they sold Spring Creek Ranch, a roughly 11,000-acre ranch in Kansas originally listed for around $23.2 million; and they listed their 131,000-acre Matador Ranch in West Texas several months ago for $124.45 million. One of the nation’s richest families, Forbes places the Kochs net worth at around $100 billion.