The Land Report

SPR 2012

The Magazine of the American Landowner is an essential guide for investors, landowners, and those interested in buying or selling land. The award-winning quarterly is known for its annual survey of America's largest landowners, The Land Report 100.

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S P R I N G 2 0 1 2 | The LandReport 57 LANDREPORT.COM I n a 2011 interview with the Bryan- College Station Eagle, the ranch's former VP of marketing described the effects of Birkel's investment. "All levels of education and skills were employed at the ranch, and there were easily more than 50 employees at one time," Joe Fuller said. Thanks to Birkel, Camp Cooley now has 7,500 acres of improved pasture, 200-plus miles of fencing and traps, a large main house, a 17-room executive office facility, a sales pavilion, a mechanical shop complex, a computerized fueling system, and staff housing. It is home to one of the state's first exotic game preserves, featuring a variety of African and Asian species includ- ing sika, fallow deer, impala, and eland. Birkel's crowning achievement was a seed-stock operation that specialized in registered Angus, Brangus, and Charolais bulls. To maximize quality, he developed state-of-the-art genetics. In 1998, two calves were successfully cloned by scientists at Camp Cooley. At its peak, Camp Cooley Ranch penned and pastured 4,500 cow-calf pairs and 2,000 bulls. "I think our biggest achievement is we brought a lot of service and support to our customers to make them successful," Birkel told the Bryan-College Station Eagle. "Not only genetic-wise, but consulting. How they should manage their ranch. How they should do their breeding program." The end result was a cash cow. Despite its 2009 bankruptcy filing, Camp Cooley's farming operation ginned almost $1 million in revenues in 2010. The ranch's hay fields produced 79,533 square bales and 3,253 round bales. Another $2 million came from minerals, grazing leases, and hunting income. Despite these numbers, Birkel was at wits' end. Neither he nor his creditors had been able to agree on a path forward. In late 2010, the embattled landowner took a cold call from a man whose in-laws owned a ranch not far from Birkel's. The most memorable aspect of their conversation? The caller's thick Australian accent. Over the last two decades, Bernard "Bernie" Uechtritz has made a name for himself at the highest levels of the real estate industry. Like "The Wolf," Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction, Uechtritz is a fixer, one whose expertise ranges from luxury and ranch real estate to conservation and land stewardship. He has even brokered financing deals for media properties such as RFD TV. Remember the Menendez brothers? Following their convictions for murdering their parents, prospects didn't queue up to tour one of the family's properties. On top of this stigma, the U.S. was in an economic downturn, thanks in large measure to the savings and loan scandal. Stephen Goldberg was the lead lawyer of the Menendezes' estate. After several years, the L.A. attorney was running out of options. Not one broker had been able to sell the residence. Out of the blue, a rookie real estate agent cold-called him and said he wanted to market the Menendez home. "Bernie just came in and said, 'I can do this.' We'd already had some of the more established people try to sell it. Was Bernie qualified on paper to handle that sale? No. Did he do a great job? You bet. He wasn't afraid to spend money," Goldberg says. In what would become a signature first step, Uechtritz developed a marketing campaign that targeted affluent buyers from around the world. Within a month, he handed Goldberg a signed contract. "Bernie got offers on the table through unconventional means, pushed forward, persevered, and got it done," Goldberg says. Uechtritz later joined forces with Martin Sheen, Rob Reiner, and other Hollywood heavyweights to save the Ahmanson Ranch from development. Starz CEO Chris Albrecht, who was chairman and CEO of HBO at the time, spearheaded the effort. "If that ranch had been developed, Bernie would have made a killing. He was one of Los Angeles's top brokers, yet he came down on our side. I thought to myself, 'I can count on this guy,'" Albrecht says. Some 200-plus miles of fencing crisscross Camp Cooley Ranch, which boasts more than 7,500 acres of improved pasture.

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