While the Atlanta Falcons football team has been working to reach the Super Bowl, its billionaire owner Arthur M. Blank has been busy acquiring a 6,300-acre ranch in Montana’s Paradise Valley.
The sale of the West Creek Ranch, which borders the Yellowstone River and Custer Gallatin National Forest about 30 miles south of Livingston, was finalized in January.
The ranch borders another Blank property, Mountain Sky Guest Ranch — a dude ranch that has 10,000 “operational acres,” according to the company’s website. The business dates back to 1929 when it was founded by Charles Murphy to supplement his livestock and agricultural operation. Blank bought the guest ranch in 2001.
Both properties, which will continue to operate independently, are along Big Creek, a tributary to the Yellowstone River and public access point to the national forest popular with hunters, hikers and trail riders.
According to a press release, the ranch was acquired by AMB West LLC, “a newly formed operating entity of the Arthur M. Blank Family of Businesses.
“The formation of AMB West and the acquisition of West Creek Ranch expands Blank’s growing portfolio of businesses, and will also serve as an additional platform for The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s philanthropic work in the West,” the press release stated. “The Foundation will utilize the ranch to expand its scope and impact of meaningful philanthropic work focused on conservation of natural resources and wildlife habitat, as well as values-based leadership programming.”
Through his charitable foundation and his family’s personal giving, the 74-year-old Blank has granted more than $300 million to various charitable organizations, according to the press release, many of them in the Atlanta area.
In Montana, the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch Fund in 2016 granted nearly half a million dollars to more than 40 organizations in Livingston, Gardiner and Bozeman, including $20,000 to the Bridger Biathlon Club, $60,000 to construct a gravity park in Livingston and $5,000 to the Montana Wilderness School to purchase canoes. The fund also gave $10,000 to the Greater Gardiner Community Council for the 2016 National Park Service celebration, An Evening at the Arch.
Forbes magazine values Blank’s net worth at $3.3 billion. A large portion of his wealth comes from co-founding home improvement retailer Home Depot in 1978. He retired from the company as co-chairman in 2001. In 2016 Forbes ranked Blank as the 214th richest person in the world.
“In 2002, he paid $545 million for the Atlanta Falcons, a team now worth $2.1 billion,” according to Forbes. “He paid a $70 million expansion fee to bring the next Major League Soccer team to Atlanta. The Atlanta United FC will commence play in spring 2017 in a new $1.5 billion stadium, which they will share with the Falcons. The new stadium is also slated to host the 2019 Super Bowl.”
Blank will be in good company in the Paradise Valley, which has its share of wealthy landowners including celebrities, financiers, writers, artists and trust funders.
“West Creek Ranch and its unique beauty, natural resources and pristine location, represent an exciting new addition to our Family of Businesses,” Blank said in the press release. “We’re committed to being responsible stewards of the land and improving the communities we serve with all of our businesses. Through the new ranch we can expand these efforts in Montana while adding meaningful value to our guests, associates and current and future partners. We are excited to fully develop a use plan that preserves the natural beauty and utilizes the spectacular setting for bringing people together in meaningful ways."
West Creek Ranch is spread across a variety of terrain located about 25 miles north of the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, including irrigated bottomland and foothill pasture.
“A number of improvements to existing structures on the property are planned for the balance of 2017 in addition to developing ranch programming that could include professional development or education programs, as well as retreat opportunities for Blank Family of Businesses associates, sponsors and partners,” the press release said.
Mountain Sky Guest Ranch will also gain access to “select West Creek land and natural resources for additional outdoor activities, including new trail rides for the riding program, fishing in streams and ponds, as well as direct access to the Yellowstone River … Any new activities at West Creek Ranch are not expected to commence until the summer of 2018.
“Blank will personally oversee development of AMB West and provide high-level strategy for West Creek Ranch as he does for the rest of the portfolio while continuing to focus time and energy on philanthropic work and instilling the organization’s core values and culture across the portfolio,” the press release said.