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 59 LANDREPORT.COM B y the time Uechtritz entered the fray, the negotiations were marked by acrimony and ill will. "We were looking at bad blood, a bad economy, and the worst drought on record," Uechtritz says. Uechtritz's first move was to entice the creditors with an aggressive sales strategy. Raymond Battaglia, lead bankruptcy attor- ney with San Antonio's Strasburger Price Oppenheimer Blend, represented Klaus Birkel and Camp Cooley Ltd. "We had this strange stew of complications," Battaglia says. "Camp Cooley was in bank- ruptcy, and of course everyone knew that it had to sell. The relationship between the debtor and the creditors was clearly adversarial. Bernie and I had to convince them that we had a common goal: to monetize the asset for the best price we could get. Bernie, with that Australian accent and gregarious- ness, is a great player in that respect. He has the ability to talk to people and bring them together." Battaglia is not the first member of the legal profession to recognize this gift. "Bernie does have a good bit of persuasive personality," Goldberg says. Initially, Uechtritz's marketing plan worked like a charm. "The first thing you have to do is bring the wolves out of the woods. You've got to identify the folks who have always wanted to buy the ranch but were waiting to buy it from the bank. You have to figure out who's working the back door and bring them through the front instead. The next step is to find out who's sitting on the fence and then convince them to put their cards on the table," he says. To that end, he studied blogs, talked to locals, and tracked down brokers who had tried, and failed, to market Camp Cooley. "You must go 180 degrees from what every broker has tried before, even if that means being controversial," he says. "Bernie operated at the bank officer level, and I was worked at the lawyer level, and all the while we had to manage the client's expectations," Battaglia says. Potential buyers expressed interest and made offers, but when a junior lienholder leaked details of the settlement, the calls stopped coming in. More than 40 creditors had a stake in the deal with Amegy Bank and Lone Star Bank the largest. The creditors posted for foreclosure; the case went back to bankruptcy court. Uechtritz's next challenge was to convince Judge Ronald King not to foreclose. He urged the Chief Bankruptcy Judge to allow the ranch to be offered at auction. "The most likely alternative would have been for the banks to foreclose," Uechtritz says. "The vultures could have gone straight to the banks and paid 25 cents on the dollar. Sure, most of the big creditors would have recouped a bit of their money, but the smaller lienholders — the mom-and-pop feed stores and the small contractors down the list — they would have been out of luck." Uechtritz also stressed the interests of landowners in Robertson County. "Think about it. If Judge King had allowed Camp Cooley to be foreclosed, it would have deci- mated property values. In Central Texas, Camp Cooley is the gold standard. Fire sale that ranch, and everybody loses. It's as simple as that," he says. The specter of a foreclosure sale worried Uechtritz. Not only would the great ranch be divvied up into ranchettes but neighboring property values would plummet. !" #$%&# '()(() % (##** + *& ( #('( , & )-)" .$#/## ( $# &" #')0 --0(#1$#234 % .5./ /&#!$!#6. &#" !&#//&(6" #0-& 78&.') !"""#$#%&

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