ASPEN, Colo.—Hala Ranch, the opulent Aspen estate of Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud that was once the most expensive property on the market in the United States, has sold, for $49 million. The sale included the main house for $41 million and a second parcel with guest house for $8 million. The sale was recorded at the Pitkin County clerk's office on Friday.
Prince Bandar, who is head of Saudi Arabia’s national security council and used to be the country’s ambassador to the United States, had at one time listed his Aspen property for $135 million. During the height of Aspen’s real estate market in 2006 and 2007, it was for a short time the highest-priced property in the country, until a Beverly Hills mansion once owned by William Randolph Hearst eclipsed it with an asking price of $165 million.
The prince was reportedly not spending as much time in the United States and Aspen at the time, as he was transitioning from his role as ambassador to a position that kept him closer to home. Aspen attorney William Jordan III, who represents Bandar’s local interests, told local media in November 2007 that the family took the property off the market because they decided they enjoyed using the ranch, and had spent six weeks there that year.
The estate includes a 15-bedroom, 16-bath, 56,000-square-foot main house that is larger than the US White House, plus several outbuildings, its own water treatment plant, gas pumps, and other bells and whistles to make it a completely self-contained compound.
Rumors of an impending sale have circulated for months, but interest in the property has always been high—it appeared on a 2010 VH-1 special titled “The most insane real estate on the planet,” and entertained numerous inquiries and even a few offers when it was up for a sale a few years ago, but none that were acceptable to the seller, according to real estate broker Joshua Saslove.
Bandar did, however, sell off other properties he owned nearby during the real estate frenzy. The $36.5 million Jeffrey Soffer paid for a 14,400-square-foot pad was one of the highest prices in local history. Bandar also sold a 9,500-square-foot home for $8.6 million and a 7,200-square-foot home for $3.9 million in 2007.
The $49 million sale price of Hala Ranch is amongst the highest amount ever paid for Aspen-area residential properties. Other super high end sales include a house on Willoughby Way on lower Red Mountain that changed hands for $43 million in July 2009, a Wildcat Ridge estate that sold for $36.375 million in April 2008, and a West Buttermilk estate transaction in October 2010 for $31.5 million.
Bandar bought the property for $3.5 million in 1989 and built the main house and two other mansions on it within the next two years. Still on the property are two smaller, two-bedroom homes, one built in 1900 and another in 1938, according to the assessor’s website. Both were remodeled in 1980.
The current value of Bandar's property, according to the assessor, is $84.2 million, close to double the recent sales price. The total tax bill for the 90-acre property and its improvements amounted to $326,445 in 2012.
Bandar also owns 22 condo hotel units at the Inn at Aspen at the base of Buttermilk, which reportedly is the family’s favorite ski mountain. The rooms have been used in the past to house his traveling entourage.
Bandar’s links to Aspen also include several generous donations over the years to local nonprofits and institutions, including Aspen Mountain Rescue, the Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, and Aspen Valley Hospital.
But there’s also been broad media attention on a lawsuit that among other allegations accused Bandar of receiving $2 billion in bribes from British arms maker BAE, and using some of it to finance his Aspen holdings. The payments were reportedly connected to an $80 billion contract BEA has had with the Saudi government since the 1980s to supply it with fighter jets and other military tools, which Bandar helped to orchestrate. According to The New York Times, BAE settled the case in 2010, pleading guilty to just two of the multiple criminal charges and paying nearly $450 million in penalties to the United States and Britain.
CORRECTION: Aspen Business Journal originally reported on Friday June 2 that Bandar's estate sold for $41 million, but later learned that there were two parcels involved in the sale of Bandar's estate. One parcel sold for $41 million and a second parcel sold for $8 million to the same buyer.