Hedge fund titan John Paulson is known for betting big on housing — his 2008 position against the U.S. subprime mortgage market famously made him a billionaire several times over, and earned his clients returns of over 600 percent — but now he is taking things in the opposite direction, dropping a reported $49 million on an Aspen, Colo. area ranch that was built for Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Paulson's firm confirmed the purchase — which consisted of two transactions: $41 million for the 90-acre main property and an additional $8 million for a 38-acre parcel known as Bear Cabin — on Tuesday, according to CNBC.
Naturally, Paulson scored a deal. The 56,000-square-foot property, known as Hala Ranch, was originally listed for $135 million and was at one time considered the most expensive home in the country. Case in point: When the prince sold off the ranch's 15,000-square-foot "guest house" for $36.5 million in 2006, it was the highest price ever paid at the time for a single-family home in Aspen.
"Hala Ranch is one of the most beautiful properties in Aspen, located on over 90 acres located in the exclusive Starwood community," read a statement released by Paulson & Co. on Tuesday. "Initially offered for sale for $135 million, the purchase price represents a substantial discount to the asking price. In addition, the purchase also includes the Bear Cabin located on a separate 38-acre parcel that was never previously offered for sale."
So what does $49 million buy in Aspen these days?
In addition to more than 130 acres of working ranch land, Hala Ranch (Paulson is reportedly changing the name to "Star Ranch") offers 15 bedrooms and 27 bathrooms, a commercial kitchen, a warehouse-inspired garage and even its own onsite sewage treatment plant. A pool? Of course, but the estate also includes dozens of reflection pools, fish ponds and gardens, plus miles of private hiking and equestrian trails, along with heated stables, a racquetball court, gym and steam room. The new owner will even enjoy his own car wash and gas pumps.
At Home in Aspen
Paulson is no stranger to the Aspen real estate market. He already owns a 12,500-square-foot home in the area, which he purchased for $24.5 million in 2010, and has reportedly been vacationing in the Colorado ski town for more than 25 years. According to Pitkin County records, the Hala Ranch purchase was credited to Paulson's Starwood Mountain Ranch LLC, and the new owner is reportedly planning to upgrade the property and "reduce the scale of the house," though it is hard to envision exactly how he will accomplish that. A 56,000-square-foot home doesn't reduce easily.
Still, the purchase likely represents a long-term home for Paulson. According to the Tuesday statement, he and his family "intend to stay in Aspen for many years to come."
Time to Buy?
The news comes at an awkward PR moment for Paulson who, despite enjoying fabulous success in recent years, found himself mired in losses throughout 2011. Some of his funds had dropped by as much as 30 percent by October of last year and have just recently begun to rebound. Paulson's personal fortune reportedly dropped by as much as $3 billion in 2011.
Of course, he is still worth about $12.5 billion, making him Aspen's fifth wealthiest resident and now the owner of the tony ski town's best-known home.
Want to take a look around Paulson's new house? The photos below are from the original listing. Credit: Joshua Saslove.