The Y Cross Ranch is located northwest of Cheyenne on the eastern edge of the Laramie Range along Horse Creek. It consists of approximately 60,000 acres of land (including state and federally leased acres), ranch buildings, residences, several creeks and reservoirs, ranch and farm equipment, and cattle. It also includes a Forest Service permit for 269 head of livestock on the Medicine Bow National Forest (Horse Creek Allotments) and State of Wyoming leases.
Basic Facts About the Gift
The donors of the Y Cross Ranch were the Courtenay C. Davis Foundation (99%) and Amy Davis (1%). On September 1, 1997, they gave the ranch to the University of Wyoming Foundation and the Colorado State University Research Foundation as equal members of a limited liability company—the C. C. Davis and Co. LLC.
The ranch was previously owned by Courtenay C. Davis. Mr. Davis passed away in 1995, and the ranch passed to the Courtenay C. Davis Foundation and Amy Davis, his daughter.
According to the gift agreement, “the gift to the Foundations on behalf of the respective universities is made exclusively for educational and scientific purposes.” The donors intended for the gift (1) to “generate scholarships and internships for CSU and UW students through net revenues generated from ranching operations” and (2) to “provide a ‘real-world’ working laboratory by CSU and UW students in western ranching and resource management.”
According to the gift agreement, after 14 years from the date of the gift (September 2011), the foundations may do any one of the following:
Continue the current operations
Sell the ranch at market value—subject to the conservation easement—with the net proceeds divided equally between the endowments managed by the two foundations. In this case the endowment-generated income would benefit the colleges of agriculture at the two universities.
With the approval of both foundations, one of the foundations could become the sole owning interest, and it would purchase the other foundation’s interest at the appraised value that was in effect at the time of the initial gift in 1997. This option was not considered because the value of the ranch is significantly higher than the appraised value at the time of the gift.
In a memorandum of agreement developed at the time of the gift, the CSU Research Foundation and UW Foundation agreed to accept the gift of the ranch and to manage it to utilize the land and other resources in the context of practical yet contemporary livestock, range, and meadow management strategies and in such a manner as to generate net revenues from the operations for the support of education and research.
Ranch Ownership and Management
The UW Foundation and the CSU Research Foundation each hold fifty percent interest in the C. C. Davis and Co. LLC that owns the ranch. Neither UW nor CSU owns any part of the ranch.
The property is managed by a committee of representatives of the CSU and UW Foundations, the deans of the colleges of agriculture at CSU and UW, and a person appointed by the Courtenay C. Davis Foundation. For the seven years following the agreement, Amy Davis was engaged as a non-paid consultant per the agreement.
The five-member management committee appoints the LLC Manager, who implements the policies of the management committee and recommends operating procedures, business plans, livestock management, and budgets. The LLC Manager also hires, fires, and supervises ranch employees, including the foreman.
At the time of the gift, the ranch property came under the restrictions of a conservation easement, so that the ranch property would be retained in its natural, scenic, historic, agricultural, forested, or open space condition and so that any uses that significantly impair the conservation values of the property would be prevented. Those restrictions remain in place in perpetuity regardless of ownership.
Educational Benefits of the Ranch
According to the gift agreement, each foundation was to establish a Y Cross Ranch Endowment Fund to receive equal shares of any distributions from the net revenues generated by the LLC revenues.
The two institutions have never received distributions to fund the endowments as outlined above. During the 15 years the foundations have held ownership interests in the ranch, revenue has barely been sufficient to pay for resolving significant deferred maintenance that existed when the ranch was received and to pay for continued operations and maintenance of the ranch.
Due to a number of factors including location, inaccessibility due to weather conditions, etc., there has not been an opportunity for significant faculty or student involvement in applied research. Hence, a limited number of students have benefited from the ranch. The ranch has had only a couple of interns per year and one UW scholarship per year.
The University of Wyoming is partnering with several other working ranches that are more accessible. They provide excellent practical ranch and ranch management experience for university students.
Key Elements and Rationale of the Sale Process
Amy Davis, as the representative of the Courtenay C. Davis Foundation, and the two university foundations signed the agreement. One of the key provisions is that the ranch may be sold after 14 years, provided the revenue is used to fund student scholarships and internships.
In September 2011, University of Wyoming President Tom Buchanan and Colorado State University President Tony Frank and the boards of directors of the two foundations—in consultation with the academic deans of the universities’ respective colleges of agriculture—determined that much greater benefits to students could be achieved by selling the ranch and using the proceeds to create endowments to provide thousands of dollars for scholarships and internships. The investment income from these funds will support each institution’s agricultural programs in a manner consistent with the original purpose of the gift.
Working in partnership, the UW Foundation and the CSU Research Foundation are marketing the ranch (exclusive of livestock, which will be sold separately) for sale in a deliberative and transparent process open to all potential buyers.
The foundations are under no legal, self-imposed, or university-imposed deadline to sell the ranch.
The foundations are committed to receiving the highest possible offer through a publicly open, sealed-bid process. The benefit of a sealed-bid process is to ensure fair and equal access to this opportunity for any and all prospective buyers and to gain the best possible price. No buyer will be excluded or discriminated against in any way on the basis of his/her/its identity.
The C. C. Davis and Co. LLC, the University of Wyoming Foundation, and the CSU Research Foundation are all private entities and have decided to keep the appraised value of the ranch confidential as part of the process of maximizing the sale price. A small number of foundation board members and staff from both foundations have reasons to know this information to guide the sealed bid process. Prospective bidders and/or their representatives will not be informed of the appraised value of the property.
The two foundations have hired a realty consultant, Ranch Marketing Associates, with Ron Morris as principal. For a period of months, Ranch Marketing Associates will seek prospective buyers via national and international publications, conversations with other ranch realtors, and direct solicitation of potential owners. On November 13, 2012, Ranch Marketing Associates will receive sealed bids from prospective buyers.
Former Wyoming Governor Mike Sullivan and former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter will open the sealed bids at Little America in Cheyenne. The foundations reserve the right to reject any and all bids.
In 2011, the two foundations received a proposal for a land swap involving the Y Cross and privately owned land east of Laramie. Both foundations decided not to pursue this proposal.
No employees or administrators at either university will benefit financially in any way from the sale of the ranch. There will be no bonuses or raises to university employees resulting from a successful sale.