Minding Ag's Business

Marlboro Cigarette Maker Sells 18,000-Acre Montana Ranch

Katie Micik Dehlinger
By  Katie Micik Dehlinger , Farm Business Editor
The new buyers of Marlboro's Crazy Mountain Ranch in Montana said it has no plans for residential development on the nearly 18,000-acre cow-calf operation. (Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

Earlier this week, DTN put the spotlight on farmland when we discussed the outlook for cash rents in 2022 and ways farmers can tip negotiations in their favor to control the impact to their bottoms in our "Keep the Good Times Rolling Series." You can read that story here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

While we think cash rent conversations this fall will be an important part of farmers' ability to set themselves up for profitability, another large land sale caught our eye this week. Marlboro cigarette maker Altria Group Inc. (through its better-known subsidiary Philip Morris USA) sold its 18,000-acre cow-calf operation and dude ranch near Clyde Park, Montana.

Marlboro's Crazy Mountain Ranch was often used for corporate events as well as a prize in annual contests for loyal customers. Who wouldn't want an all-expenses-paid trip to a beautiful Montana ranch complete with an Old Western Town with 20 buildings, including a saloon, hotel and spa? One of the largest properties in the area, locals generally regarded the dude ranch "as a quirky but generally benign and light-on-the-landscape operation that was hit pretty hard by COVID-19," according to a Montana Free Press article exploring the future of the Crazy Mountains. (You can read that fascinating history here: https://montanafreepress.org/….)

The buyer is a subsidiary of privately-owned investment and asset management firm Cross Harbor Capital Partners, and its reputation is a bit more complicated. The private equity firm bought the Yellowstone Club out of bankruptcy in 2009, and over the course of six years, converted it to a residential resort subdivision where properties sell for $2,500 to $3,000 per square foot. Cross Harbor also owns two other luxury communities in the area, and since Marlboro's ranch is in a part of the county that isn't zoned, there are concerns about similar development. The equity firm has also been party to several controversial proposed land swaps with the U.S. Forest Service, according to the Montana Land Source. (You can read that here: https://mtlandsource.com/….)

Cross Harbor says its subsidiary, Lone Mountain Land Company, has no plans for a residential subdivision or a commercial heliskiing operation.

"Lone Mountain Land Company will continue to operate the ranch's cow-calf operation and guest ranch," Sam Byrne, managing partner and co-founder at Cross Harbor Capital Partners, said in a news release. "We look forward to working with our neighbors, the Clyde Park community, and the Forest Service to be thoughtful stewards of the land and good members of the community."

Details of the deal have not been made public.

Is anyone else anxiously awaiting the next season of Kevin Costner's television series "Yellowstone?" This all sounds eerily similar.

Katie Dehlinger can be reached at katie.dehlinger@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter at @KatieD_DTN

Katie Dehlinger can be reached at Katie.dehlinger@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @KatieD_DTN


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7/14/2021 | 9:34 AM CDT
Hi All -- Since publishing, I've heard from a rancher in the area. He tells me there's a lot of relief, especially from local auctions and supply stores, that this ranch will stay a working cattle ranch. He also tells me there are a lot of cattlemen involved in various land exchanges, and they've gone a long way in easing controversy and conflict. You can read more about those efforts here: https://www.crazymountainproject.com/