Thursday, 7 June 2012

Billionaire John Paulson Confirms $49 Million Purchase Of Hala Ranch

In 2006, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a Saudi royal and former ambassador to the U.S., listed his Aspen, Colo. ranch for $135 million. The massive estate, called Hala Ranch, became America’s most expensive home for sale. Then the real estate recession hit and the ranch, failing to lure a wealthy buyer, quietly slipped off the market.
Despite never again gracing the Multiple Listing Services, the 90-acre Rocky Mountain ranch has finally found a new owner.   John Paulson, the hedge fund billionaire worth $12.5 billion by Forbes’ estimate, has just shelled out $49 million for the Saudi prince’s estate, making it Aspen’s priciest home sale this year — and arguably, ever. Paulson, who made his fortune by famously shorting subprime securities in 2007, confirmed the purchase with Forbes, issuing this statement:
Hala Ranch is one of the most beautiful properties in Aspen located on over 90 acres located in the exclusive Starwood community. Initially offered for sale for $135 million the purchase price represents a substantial discount to the asking price. In addition, the purchase also includes the Bear Cabin located on a separate 38 acre parcel that was never previously offered for sale.
For the Wall Street titan, who technically made the purchase through a limited liability company, the purchase likely represents a good deal. Other Aspen property transactions with comparable price tags haven’t boasted nearly as much land or completed house. For example, the  neighboring Star Mountain Ranch, also formerly owned by Bandar, commanded $36.5 million in 2007 for a smaller 15,000-square foot house sitting on 67 acres.
Hala Ranch is tucked away inside the private Starwood community, a gated residential neighborhood on the slopes of Red Mountain. The sale was technically comprised of two transactions: a 90-acre main parcel which fetched $41 million and a neighboring 38-acre parcel called Bear Ranch which fetched $8 million.
The combined property boasts a massive 56,000-square foot main house with 15 bedrooms, including a master suite equipped with a beauty and barber room for massages, pedicures and styling, and 16 bathrooms reportedly finished with gold fixtures. Some of the guest rooms open onto a interior courtyard hosting a waterfall-fed reflecting pool.
Scattered among the property’s tree-studded acreage are several smaller buildings as well as a tennis court, an indoor swimming pool, and stables. There’s also a water-treatment plant and a mechanical shop equipped with its own gas pumps and car wash. As Forbes has reported in years past, the main parcel touts an elaborate, high-tech security system that keeps the entire 90-plus acres protected.
Sale of the mega estate was reportedly brokered by Joshua Saslove, the eponymous founder of Joshua & Co., a Colo.-based luxury realty firm affiliated with Christie’s International Real Estate. Saslove could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
“This is a unique property… because you just couldn’t build a house that large today in Pitkin County,” says Maureen Stapleton, a real estate broker for Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty who was not involved in the deal. Construction in the ski town typically involves carting in materials and labor from other parts of the country, a costly  and time-consuming endeavor that makes high-end inventory limited. Even so, ”I don’t know what the buyer’s plans are but I can’t imagine they won’t renovate the house,” she adds.
Bandar purchased the property in 1989 for a mere $3.5 million. According to the Aspen Business Journal, the Saudi prince built the main house and two other mansions on it over the next two years.
Stapleton, who brokered the 2008 sale of a Wildcat Ridge estate for $36 million to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, is well acquainted with the luxury offerings in Aspen and its tony neighboring towns. She says both foreign and domestic buyers have been actively touring properties in the area, noting that another high-end home listed at $29 million just went into contract as well. Pocket listings, or homes like Hala Ranch that are not publicly listed for sale, have been particularly popular among moneyed buyers.
At $49 million, the joint transaction is arguably the most expensive home sale in Aspen. It joins a trove of record-breaking real estate purchases witnessed across the country over the past year. Other recent staggering sales include a $90 million-plus penthouse in New York‘s yet-to-be-built One57 building and the $34.5 million purchase of Beverly Hills’ Wehba Estate.
Paulson, who resides primarily in New York City, is no stranger to real estate, either. Both directly and through his  funds, the hedge fund manager owns property in Arizona, California, Nevada, Florida and Hawaii. Hala Ranch is the second purhcase he has made in Colorado since the recession: in 2010 he spent $24.5 million on a 12,500-square foot home just outside of Aspen. Paulson “continues to be interested in real estate opportunities across the U.S.,” according to his office’s statement.

John Paulson Buys Saudi Prince's Aspen Ranch in $49 Million Deal

June 5 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire John Paulson bought Hala Ranch, a 90-acre (36-hectare) property in Aspen, Colorado, that belonged to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and a separate site in the town for $49 million.
The ranch, built by the prince about 20 years ago, is Aspen's largest residential property and includes a 55,000- square-foot (5,000-square-meter) main house, according to Tim Estin, a broker with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate in Aspen. It was initially marketed for $135 million, making it the most expensive U.S. home listing, the Aspen Times said in 2006.
"Hala Ranch is one of the most beautiful properties in Aspen," Paulson & Co., the hedge-fund manager's investment firm, said in a statement. "The purchase price represents a substantial discount to the asking price."
Paulson also bought Bear Cabin, located on a separate 38- acre parcel that was never previously offered for sale, according to the statement.
The statement didn't disclose the exact price. Land records in Pitkin County reflect two sales totaling $49 million to an entity called Starwood Mountain Ranch LLC.
The dollar volume of Aspen home sales declined 27 percent this year through May from the same period in 2011, to $277 million, according to Estin, publisher of the Estin Report, a monthly analysis of the Aspen home market. He wasn't involved in the Paulson transactions.
The dollar volume fell as fewer homes priced above $10 million changed hands, Estin said. The tally doesn't include Paulson's purchase, which was completed in June, according to property records. The deals for Hala Ranch and another $30 million home that went into contract last week will bring sales volume in line with a year ago, Estin said.
Paulson, directly or through his funds, owns real estate across the U.S. including properties in Colorado, Arizona, California, Nevada, Florida and Hawaii, according to the statement.

Paulson's Gold Fund Down In May, But Sees Reversion

NEW YORK--Billionaire hedge-fund manager John Paulson's gold fund declined by 12.7% last month as the price of gold dropped, bringing the fund's losses so far this year to 22.5%, a person familiar with the situation said.
But in a letter that Paulson & Co. sent to investors Tuesday, along with the performance numbers, the hedge-fund manager said the trade has reversed lately.
"Gold equities proved to be a meaningful counterbalance to the market's downward move during the second half of the month and into early June," it said.
Gold futures fell 6% over the course of May, slashing prices by around $100 a troy ounce, in the biggest monthly percentage drop in gold since December 2011.
The sharp gold-price movement came at a time when Paulson & Co. invested in gold-related equities, believing there was "significant undervaluation of gold equities relative to gold prices." That trade contributed to May's decline.
In its quarterly filing on stock holdings for the first quarter, Paulson & Co. said it held stakes in gold-related companies Allied Nevada Gold Corp. (ANV), Anglogold Ashanti Ltd. (AU), Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX) and exchanged-traded fund SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) as of March 31.
Paulson's Advantage fund, an event-driven fund that seeks to profit from takeovers and other activities, has about a quarter of its assets in gold-related investments, including equities, physical gold, and gold-related derivatives. The fund posted a 0.32% decline in May, less than the Standard & Poor's 500 Total Return Index's 6.0% loss for May. Its year-to-date decline stood at 6.27%.
The letter said Advantage Fund's gold exposure helped to mitigate broad market losses during the second half of May. The fund gained 2.1% solely on its gold-related investments between May 15 and June 1, when the S&P index was down 4.5% during the period.