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.