Forget gold, crypto, IPOs, baseball cards or pork belly futures. You want to make money? Buy a ranch in Montana. The road to prosperity is full of land mines and booby traps…but owning a ranch in Montana is pretty much a sure thing.

Since my time in the Madison Valley, several of the big ranches have sold…every time for a profit: The Sun Ranch has sold three times, The Valley Garden Ranch three times, Jumping Horse Stock Ranch twice, Cedar Creek Ranch twice, Windy Water twice…each time, the sellers made money.

Some ranches have changed hands and changed names: Beardsley Stock ranch to Robbie Ranch to Alton Ranch…Armitage Ranch to Carroll Ranch. Each time the sale price went up…each time the sellers made a profit. One of the largest ranches in our valley, the Bar-7, has had the same owners for 40 years. It has everything…water, river frontage, forest access, large acreage. When it finally sells it will be for big bucks.

Most of the larger ranches are under some type of conservation easement which retains natural lay of the land, open space, and prevents development and subdivision. Other ranches are not. Some have already been sold and cut up and subdivided.

So when a ranch near Dillon, Montana sells for $200 million bucks to a media mogul and the ex-wife of the lead singer of The Rolling Stones, it doesn’t surprise me. Time is on their side.

Rupert Murdoch buys sprawling ranch in Beaverhead County

Butte Montana Standard

  • Dec 9, 2021
Beaverhead Ranch
Rupert Murdoch has purchased the Beaverhead Ranch south of Dillon for the reported purchase price of $200 million. The ranch is said to be about 345,000 acres. 

Billionaire news mogul Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Jerry Hall Murdoch, confirmed Thursday that they had purchased the sprawling Beaverhead Ranch in Beaverhead County from Matador Cattle Co., an indirect subsidiary of Koch Industries.

Both the Wall Street Journal and CNBC reported that the sale price was $200 million. A spokeswoman for Murdoch confirmed the sale but not the sale price in communication with CNBC.

The Beaverhead Ranch, a working cattle ranch, covers about 345,000 acres and stretches along a 90-mile road from Dillon to the Idaho border and east to Yellowstone National Park.

The ranch reports that it is home to 15 employee families, nearly 7,000 cow/calf pairs and a variety of wildlife. The ranch’s headquarters are about 10 miles south of Dillon.

John Jackson, chairman of the Beaverhead County Commission and a rancher himself, said Thursday around midday that he’d heard about the transaction but had no details yet.

“The Koch brothers have been good neighbors,” he said, employing residents and families in Beaverhead County at the Beaverhead Ranch.

He said he anticipates the Murdochs won’t make major changes.

A quote attributed to Rupert Murdoch by the Wall Street Journal declared, “We feel privileged to assume ownership of this beautiful land and look forward to continually enhancing both the commercial cattle business and the conservation assets across the ranch.”

The Montana Standard reported on Dec. 28, 1950, that Fred Koch had purchased a 42,000 acre ranch near Dillon for $1.1 million. The article said the ranch was formerly known as the Poindexter & Orr ranch, named for Philip Poindexter and William Orr.

Poindexter, from Pennsylvania, and Orr, a native of Ireland, came to the region around the time Beaverhead County was formed in 1865. They raised cattle and horses on their ranch. The men were inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2013.  

Rupert Murdoch is 90 years old. His News Corp. owns the Wall Street Journal, Fox Corp. and a host of other news outlets and media companies.

Koch Industries is based in Wichita, Kansas. Fred Koch founded the oil refinery firm that later became Koch Industries. He also purchased a ranch in Texas known as the Matador Ranch.

Charles and David Koch, often referred to as the Koch brothers, became powerful forces in libertarian and conservative causes.

And I wanted to share this Facebook post about the ranch from a kid who grew up there…Clayton Marxer:

The end of an era…The 340,000-acre Matador Cattle Company in Southwest Montana, where I spent the majority of my life, has officially sold for around $200 Million to Rupert Murdoch. This is the highest sale price of any ranch in Montana history.The Marxer family has a pretty long history with the Matador Cattle Company. My dad, Ray Marxer, started working there in 1974 and retired from the ranch in 2011, having been the General Manager for 21 of those years. My mom, Sue Marxer, joined him on the ranch after they were married in 1981. They lived on the Sage Creek division until 1985 (Dad had already been at Sage Creek for seven years). During that time, all three of us kids were born.Dad became Cow Foreman of the whole ranch in 1985, so we moved to the ranch headquarters South of Dillon. For the next several years, we followed the cattle to summer country in the Centennial Valley where we lived at the Staudaher Cow Camp with no electricity each summer and then followed the cows home when they headed back down the Blacktail for winter.In 1990, Dad was promoted to General Manager, a position he would hold until his retirement in 2011.Us kids were very involved in the everyday operations of the ranch from a very early age. There was often no babysitter when we lived way out in Sage Creek. The closest neighbor was several miles away. With no other option, and work to be done, my Mom would put me on a pillow in front of her in the saddle at just 6 weeks old while helping Dad move cattle. By the age of 2, I was riding my own Shetland pony helping dad.Over all those years, I was so fortunate to have ridden horseback over all of that country. There is very likely not one square mile of that ranch that we haven’t ridden, walked, or driven over. The Blacktail Road, in particular, is pretty well etched into my brain because my sisters and I spent many days every summer as youngsters trailing cows over 40 miles to their summer pastures along that gravel road. Most of those trips with no adults present. They’d turn us loose behind the cattle in the dark before dawn and pick us up at the end of the day. Sometimes, we would camp behind the cows at night. I can remember pushing herds of cows along the South Valley Road all by myself when I was 5-7 years old. There was almost always a warm soda sitting on the gate post to the pasture that I would turn the cows into. Those gate post sodas are some of my most treasured memories.The stories I have from growing up on the Matador and cowboyin’ there as an adult could fill a good-sized book and probably should. My folks have the best stories though, and Dad is the one who really should write his stories down. They are amazing. Some of my parents’ early years on the Matador are documented in the book “Rich Grass & Sweetwater” on which my Dad composes the cover image.The Koch family, who owned the Matador, have often been demonized by the media for decades due to their wealth and influence, however, my own experience in having known them personally was nothing but pleasant. Both Charles and David have told me grand stories of their own time as young men growing up working at the ranch during the summers of their youth. Their father, Fred Koch, who purchased the ranch in 1951, was very passionate about the ranch and shared that love with his sons. Charles Koch once told me in a personal conversation, “Clayton, this ranch was very special to our father, as well as, David and myself. As long as David and I are alive and functioning well, we will keep the ranch in the family”. Well, David Koch passed away several years ago, and Charles is getting well up in age, so I guess the time has come to sell the ranch.The ranch has always been massive. It was founded as the P&O Cattle Company in the 1860s by the pioneer cattlemen, Poindexter and Orr, who had brought cattle up from California to feed the miners during the first gold rushes to Montana. One of the first ranches established in what would eventually become the state of Montana, its Square & Compass brand was the very first brand ever recorded in Montana and that brand is still used by the Matador to this very day.It was a wild country in the days of the P&O. In fact, the bell that sits on the the big red cookhouse at the Matador headquarters was originally mounted on a fort at the ranch as an alarm for Indian attacks. It later was put on the cookhouse and was the dinner bell for many decades. The bell was originally hauled to the ranch in a horse-drawn wagon all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah.Fortunately, much of the early history of the ranch is well-documented and a couple of the last surviving members of the Orr family, who lived on the ranch in the early 1900s, entrusted Dad, personally, with their compiled P&O Ranch history before they died.Much of what made the Matador special was the people who called the ranch their home. In my early years, the ranch still utilized the traditional seasonal cowhands who came to work during the busy months and then moved on to a new ranch in new country. I was able to meet many cowboys from all over the country during this period. In later years, the management shifted to hiring more long-term, family types. There are still employees at the ranch that my Dad hired when I was a little kid 30 years ago. Those folks are treasures and have made a legacy all their own on the Matador.The Matador Cattle Company, it’s landscape, it’s history, and my own memories of growing up exploring its vastness are what will forever hold a piece of my heart and the hearts of my family. Hopefully, the new owners will appreciate the ranch as the National, State, and Local treasure that it is. May they conserve the ranch’s vast natural resources, take care of the people without whom the ranch could not exist, be good caretakers of the livestock, honor and protect the history, and manage the business in a sustainable, profitable way that will ensure the survival of the Matador Cattle Company for many generations to come.