Hedge-fund billionaire John Paulson has purchased the famed Hala Ranch along with another property in Aspen for $49 million, according to people familiar with the matter.
The lavish ranch, sold by Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was once the most expensive estate ever listed in the U.S., with a price tag in 2006 of $135 million.
The property includes a main house with 15-bedrooms, 16-baths, and 56,000-square-feet. It also includes several side buildings, as well as a water-treatment plant, gas pumps and other high-tech features.
Mr. Paulson’s $49 million purchase included two properties — the 90-acre main property as well as a 38-acre property nearby called Bear Ranch. Bear Ranch and Hala Ranch together might have fetched more than $150 million in 2006 or 2007, according to Aspen real-estate experts.
Mr. Paulson, founder of hedge fund Paulson & Co., couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The broker on the deal, Joshua Saslove, declined to comment on the identity of the buyer.
Mr. Paulson plans to upgrade both properties, as well as to scale down the main house, according to people familiar with his plans. While Hala Ranch was once the epitome of Aspen opulence, it has fallen into disrepair in recent years. Mr. Paulson plans to rename the property Star Ranch, since the property is located in the exclusive Starwood area of Aspen.
The deal is Mr. Paulson’s second in the Aspen area in two years. In 2010, he purchased a 12,500 square foot home just outside Aspen for $24.5 million. It’s unclear when or if Mr. Paulson will sell the home now that he’s purchased Hala Ranch.
Mr. Paulson and his family have been vacationing in Aspen for more than 20 years. People close to Mr. Paulson said he was attracted to Hala Ranch for its vast land and forest filled with aspens and pines. He plans to restore the property to a vacation home as well as a working ranch, these people said.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan bought the land for Hala Ranch in 1989 and built the main house in 1991. After he left his post as ambassador to the United States in 2005, he listed the property for $135 million but later pulled it off the market.
The buyer and the seller were both represented by Joshua Saslove, of Joshua & Co. Properties, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate.
UPDATE: John Paulson issued the following statement: “John Paulson, both directly and through his funds has substantial real estate interests across the United States, including other properties in Colorado, Arizona, California, Nevada and Florida and Hawaii. Mr. Paulson continues to be interested in real estate opportunities across the U.S.
Hala Ranch is one of the most beautiful properties in Aspen located on over 90 acres located in the exclusive Starwood community. 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.”
-By CNBC's Robert Frank
Follow Robert Frank on Twitter: @robtfrank