Meriwether, near Melrose, sells for $1.9M, or about $2,820 an acre.
The Nebraska Bank of Commerce purchased 730-plus acres of the Meriwether Ranch at auction Wednesday in Butte for about $1.9 million.
The bank was first lien holder on the property and held a 13 percent stake in a $3.8 million outstanding loan on the failed upscale development located near Melrose. Meriwether has been in financial trouble since 2010 and had gone into foreclosure, causing several personal bankruptcies and lawsuits along the way.
The auction at Butte’s La Quinta Inns and Suites drew more than 100 people and took more than six hours for the complicated divisions of residential lots and agricultural tracts to finally sell as one single piece of property. Up until the day before the auction, the Meriwether Ranch homeowners’ association worked to stall the sale, but it went forward after a ruling in Butte district court said it could move ahead.
A number of prospective buyers had hoped to purchase a slice of the upscale development that straddles the Big Hole River and prime recreational hunting and fishing land, as well as agricultural property.
But Ben Harris, general counsel for NBC Bancshares LLC and representing the Nebraska Bank of Commerce, submitted a final bid that trumped the overall combined price of the smaller pieces.
The roughly 736 acres of land sold for $1.939 million or about $2,820 an acre. The development was once selling prime one-acre lots along the Big Hole River for about $600,000. About two dozen buyers bought in, and some built homes on their lots.
They won’t have new neighbors anytime soon.
Harris said future development of the project would proceed in “years, not months” and that the bank did not have plans for how to sell and market the property.
Martin Jurisch, receiver of the property and auctioneer, said the development sold for much less than its value.
“I truly expected a little better on the bottom line,” he said. “As everyone knows, this is choice property.”
The auctioned land Thursday included 17 lots, hundreds of acres of hay and agriculture land, two residences, and a large half-finished lodge and cabana. The lodge and cabana sold separately Wednesday for $900,000 to a private buyer who did not wish to be identified. The Nebraska Bank of Commerce got the rest.
Harris said he was not surprised with how the auction transpired, only because he has learned that you can’t expect anything at such events.
Jurisch said the price was “easily 50 cents on the dollar” but noted a number of “large issues” still surround the property, including creditors, liens, homeowners’ association issues and fractional property disputes. Jurisch said his company tried to clear up as much as possible in the five weeks prior to the auction, but he said there were still just too many unknowns for the property to go for market value.
“This place is going to come back around,” said Jurisch. “Some hair needs to be scraped off, get rid of some of the stigma. But it’s too nice to go at this price again.”
— Reporter Tim Trainor may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 496-5519. Follow him at Twitter.com/@Tim_Trainor.