After falling in and out of escrow numerous times in recent months, it appears that the historic and stunningly beautiful Jalama and Cojo Ranches have officially sold this week — all it took was a cool $135 million.
Considered the crown jewel of the Gaviota Coast, the ranches cover approximately 24,000 acres of rangeland, stretching from Jalama Beach in the north down past Point Conception towards the infamous, surf-filled Hollister Ranch stronghold. The properties include miles of untouched central California coastline, the Point Conception lighthouse, world-class surf breaks, dozens of developable parcels, several significant Chumash sites, oil drilling prospects, and cattle land as far as the eye can see. Though little is known about the new owners, the signer on the county papers is Linda Miller, a woman believed to be a representative of a much larger and very deep-pocketed financial investment firm from Boston called the Baupost Group.
Sold by S.B. County real estate company Kerry Mormann and Associates — a group that specializes in ridiculously priced arge hunks of pristine California land — the sale of the ranches has been a tightly guarded industry secret shrouded with rumor, including a reported site visit from Donald Trump in early December. Though all parties involved have been unavailable for comment, several sources have pointed to the Baupost Group as the new owner.
The Baupost Group is an uber successful investment firm from the East Coast managed by Harvard graduate and world renowned value investor/ stock soothsayer Seth Klarman. Since it’s inception in the early ‘80s, Klarman has guided the group from little more than $100 million in start-up funds to a nearly $6 billion firm that earns its members the remarkable average annual return of around 20 percent. Known by fellow investors as a particularly shrewd and calculating mind that takes into account a wide range of risks before pulling the trigger on an investment, it seems odd the Klarman would roll the dice on a property that has scared away so many others and that will no doubt have a formidable public opposition to its development — not too mention certain inherent restrictions associated with the properties various zonings characteristics.
That being said, sources say the new Cojo/Jalama owners have little interest in conservation easements or the traditional equestrian-styled cluster development that is so popular in the area. Rather, sources say the Baupost Group and Klarman are keen on slant oil drilling exploration and turning a profit via the selling off and or development of individual lots.
Looks like Santa Barbara County conservationists and open space lovers have found their new boogeyman.