The Van Trump Report

Rags-to-Riches Owner Puts “Brewster Ranch” on the Market

Brewster Ranch is hard to get your head around being half the size of Rhode Island with over 424,000 contiguous acres. If you are looking for a Legacy Ranch with great hunting and fishing this is is impressive. East to West it runs about 57 miles from the Bullis Fold on the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande to the incredible wildlife corridor of the Santiago Mountains. It’s big, it’s Texas, and it’s wild!  

Listed by King Land and Water, Brewster Ranch is an assemblage of 22 properties that have been carefully acquired over decades to include some of the most amazing and important habitats and land features outside the one million acres in Big Bend. 

Just as impressive is the story of its rags-to-riches 66-year-old billionaire owner Brad Kelly, who was born in Kentucky to tobacco farming parents. In high school, Kelly was named secretary for Future Farmers of America and was named Kentucky high school conservationist of the year. Although he did not receive a college degree, he did achieve his goal of becoming a successful businessman and farmer.

After high school, Kelly went to work on the family-owned tobacco farm, saving whatever profit he earned and when he could afford it. he bought farm properties and abandoned warehouses which he developed for rent. Kelly’s early business ventures were really just a direct response to changes in the tobacco industry. Because of declining production in the 1980s, many old warehouses in Kentucky stood vacant. He started buying these warehouses, converting them to other uses and then leasing them out. 

Kelly’s big play came in 1991 when he founded “Commonwealth Brands” as a manufacturer of inexpensive cigarettes and set out to compete with established giants in the tobacco industry. Having a lean organization, he was able to underprice his competitors, and soon, his own brands such as USA Gold, Bull Durham, and Malibu achieved prominence as well as profits. Ten years later, in 2001, he sold the company to Houchens Industries for $1 billion in cash and began purchasing acres across Texas, New Mexico, Florida, and Hawaii. Kelly is now considered one of the top-10 landowners in the US with almost 2 million acres. 

On a side note, Kelley also owns and operates of the historic “Calumet Horse Farm” in Lexington, KY. He was already involved in Thoroughbred breeding and racing operations. He was formerly the largest shareholder and a board member of Churchill Downs. In May 2013, his colt Oxbow won the Preakness Stakes. Kelley is married with three children. He rarely gives interviews and does not use email. Kelley is active in the conservation movement. He supports many environmental and wildlife conservation interests. 

“Brewster Ranch” is a series of operating ranches, which has been the way of life in the area spanning +150 years. The various ranches that make up this spread have springs, wells, tanks, troughs, pipelines, roads, fences, pastures, traps, pens, barns, and outbuildings that are home to +1,000 head of cattle. As you would imagine, there are numerous submersible water wells, solar wells, and windmills that supply water to various storage tanks that are then piped to a network of water troughs for livestock and wildlife. Natural water also occurs from springs, tinajas, San Francisco Creek, the Rio Grande, and numerous surface tanks that gather water during the summer monsoons, and with the enhancements of the existing extensive water systems, wildlife and livestock can continue to flourish.

Wildlife is more than abundant on the property and Desert bighorn sheep permits are given each year by Texas Parks and Wildlife to hunt the sustainable population of sheep that is supplemented by the dispersing animals on the adjoining Black Gap Wildlife Management Area. This property is also home to many species of birds, raptors, songbirds, and game birds such as blue quail, mourning dove, and white-winged dove as well as larger mammals such as desert mule deer, javelina, desert bighorn, elk, aoudad, mountain lion, and black bear, making for some exciting hunting opportunities.

The sale price on the entire “Brewster Ranch” is a cool $413 million, under $1,000 per acre! If you are interested in seeing more, you can click HERE to view a short 4-minute drone tour of the property. This is certainly more than I can afford, but I thought it was a great story of a hard-working farm boy making it big so I wanted to share. Good stuff!

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