The Van Trump Report

Lessons from Legendary Champion Ranch

If you spend any time perusing the luxury real estate listings, it doesn’t take long to find a piece of property that will literally make you drool. One of those here in the U.S. is the Champion Ranch in Centerville, Texas, which I just recently learned may be close to having a buyer. It is a little shocking that it hasn’t changed hands yet – it was first listed over two years ago. But then again, it is quite a lot to take on.

Champion Ranch sits on over 5,000 acres of prime ranch land, located halfway between Dallas and Houston. The nearly 4,000 square-foot main estate sits on a private 78-acre lake. Amongst 20 additional lakes, stock ponds, and river streams, the property also has a second (and larger!) owners home, a managers house, several barns and stables, a smokehouse and processing facility, a tractor shop, eight guest and ranch houses, and a 16-person bunkhouse. A 2,200-square-foot saloon also offers two bars, a piano, and seats for 180 guests. 36 oil and gas wells dot the property, all of which — along with future mineral rights — are included. The new owners also get over 1,000 head of purebred Brangus breeder cattle, award-winning horses, and a sprawling 3,400-tree peach orchard.  

One of the most interesting things about the Champion Ranch sale is how its current owner, Richard “Dick” Wallrath, plans to use the proceeds. The majority is slated to be distributed between 4-H and FFA via the Richard Wallrath Educational Foundation, which he founded in 2006 and has already used to distribute millions to the two organizations along with other youth-oriented charities and the Houston Livestock Show. To date, Wallrath is the all-time largest individual donor in the history of the Texas 4-H Youth Development Program.

Real estate company Icon Global Group told AgDaily recently that Champion Ranch has two prospective buyers, one in the U.S and the other international. The selling price for the ranch was kept confidential but it was initially expected to bring more than $70 million, which could mean quite a windfall for the FHA and 4-H, as well as the kids that stand to benefit.

Wallrath made his fortune via Champion Windows which he sold for around $66 million. In 2012, he apparently became gravely ill and somehow his kids tried to gain ownership of the Ranch. There are reports and rumors that the family fallout became more deeply heated with Wallrath and kids actually battling it out in court once he recovered. It looks like the elder Wallrath prevailed. In fact, some rumors speculate, the offending heirs were written out of his will. 

In 2013, Wallrath explained in a commencement address how he grew up in a tough Central Texas home with an alcoholic father and how it impacted his life. One of the main themes is second chances. Below is the transcript. I found it interesting and full of great life hacks. Please feel free to share with the family and friends!

Dear Graduates,

You likely don’t know me, but you should listen to a few things I have to say. But first, who am I?

I am Dick Wallrath, a man who needed a second chance in life and received one. A big one.

Who are you? You’re the future. You’re the Graduating Class.

I’m on the far end of a long road you’re just starting.

And I’ve learned some important lessons. Here they are:

1. No one’s past can control your future.

I was raised in Central Texas in a tough home. My alcoholic father was physically abusive and for a while, his past controlled my future.

I grew up just like him, and my own alcoholism and violent temper cost me everything. Family. Job. Hope. Until faith in God, the kindness of someone who took a chance on me, and hard work, finally broke the cycle.

I wound up in my own business, a pretty successful one. I restored relations with many in my family.

I won’t soft sell. I had big problems. But God is bigger than the past, anyone’s, including mine, and your future is bright.

2. The future holds surprises.

It’s not that I lost everything and got back a few things. My “second chance” surprises everyone in its sheer audacity.

As a businessman and rancher, even after a slow, hard start, I’ve given millions in scholarships to young men and women in Texas through 4-H and FFA.

You know where your road starts. But you can’t know where it leads.

Some folks made a movie of my life and Val Kilmer co-starred in it. You can’t make this up or predict it. But you can count on the fact that life will surprise you.

Some bad surprises: the death of my daughter—a true ray of sunshine—to illness. But many good surprises: Success. Love. The joy of giving!

3. Whatever you choose, hard work is required.

You’ll be blessed, too. Unexpectedly. Sometimes, extravagantly.

If you want to make the most of your blessings, it takes hard work.

I learned to work at business, at marriage, and at family.

Even after things turned around, I had to work hard to keep them turned around. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing bad about that, either. Expect it. And do the work required.

4. If you fall, you can have a second chance.

Life throws circumstances your way. Some you don’t ask for, and don’t look for. Some you walk right into—eyes wide open. But circumstances don’t just happen to you. You happen to them, too.

In every circumstance, you have a choice. When times are hard, and some will be, remember the law of second chances.

You always choose how you react. Always. And if your choices turn out wrong—and some will —have faith.

Trust God. Work hard. You will receive a second chance.

I did...

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