On the Cover: The Science & Art
of the Complex Deal
Icon Global's Approach Recognizes Alignment of Interests for Success
BY JENNIFER WARREN MARCH 30, 2022
For Bernard Uechtritz, his notable Texas breakout in ranch sales consisted of the intricate, complicated Camp Cooley sale of 2011, and equally so, the W.T. Waggoner Ranch. Those transactions are recorded in the annals of history as The Land Report’s inaugural “Deal of the Year” for Camp Cooley and “Deal of the Century” for the Waggoner, among other accolades from media. But decades earlier, successful and difficult sales included California’s infamous Calabasas Menendez Mansion in 1995. Scores of others, public and non-public, national and international, would follow.
Icon Global, founded by Uechtritz, serves legacy landowners, public companies, institutions, ultra-high net worth family offices and even other brokers who need an extended global reach. He’s a broker both for and of brokers. They also benefit from his black book, a global high-level network, and the hard-earned reputation as the “go-to-guy.”
Identifying the right steward, from a shallow pool of prospects, is the goal of any sale, according to Uechtritz. This was particularly true in the case of the W.T. Waggoner ranch, continuing its historic legacy and reach across six counties. But it is also true of the many ranches that followed, including the currently listed Turkey Track Ranch with its characteristics and family legacy similar to that of the Waggoner’s. “You’re selling one family’s greatest treasure or their greatest asset, which is a serious responsibility of significant consequence,” Uechtritz says. For public companies or other institutions, Uechtritz ultimately represents shareholders through the executives or counsel who bet their own reputations by betting on his. “Ultimately, we have a significant stake in each other’s success,” he explains.
“Sold” properties have a life of their own. They also represent the innerworkings of a brokerage firm’s approach and processes that are the art and science of dealmaking. The art of the complex deal often involves bringing many parties together, such as heirs and their representatives, and potentially those in the judiciary. Landing on the right strategy, or approach, for a property is part creative, part analytics. However, the craftwork of these efforts is an evolution of deft, learned marketing experience. “All of the preparation in the world is important, but it’s nuance, communications, bedside manner, conversation, and problem-solving that are similar for every deal but also completely different for every deal,” Uechtritz explains. These intangible elements add value to the deal in both measurable and immeasurable ways.
The conventional broker practice of pricing via comparable market analysis is important. But to Uechtritz, it’s a mundane part of the puzzle, neither entirely, nor singularly sufficient. “I have to both create and attain the blue sky,” he adds. In 2021, a publicly-traded company interviewed three leading brokerages for a valuation of a very large and complex ranch holding. Two of the three offered price predictions from the low- to mid-five figures, using comparable value analysis. One suggested carving the property into ranchettes. Given relatively extraordinary factors, Uechtritz guesstimated a high-five or low-six figure price, derived from instinct and practice. When Icon Global was selected, with an additional requirement of non-public marketing, a sale was concluded, quickly and quietly, and well north of everyone’s predictions. “I operate in a high-risk, high-reward segment of the market,” Uechtritz emphasizes. “It’s high altitude, low oxygen—and sometimes, I must go where even the angels fear to tread.”
Creative Meets Analytics
Before the Waggoner ranch could even begin to be sold, Uechtritz’s first job was to act as a go-between among the factions that had been in litigation for 25 years. Navigating the parties involved, winning over the receiver, and working with the families and the many lawyers in these important and personal transactions is just one element of the Icon Global approach. Learning how to do that skillfully and successfully stems from repetition and practice. It then forms a deep bench of expertise.
Led by Australian-born Bernard (Bernie) Uechtritz, Icon Global is known for its distinctive ranch sales capabilities. From his thirty-year history of selling and marketing unique, one-off properties, a litany of prolific deals and accomplishments forms Icon Global’s organizational culture. As the lead broker credited with the successful sale of the W.T. Waggoner ranch, other complex and storied deals followed. Notably, they are colored by his full repertoire of creative marketing tactics. For Waggoner, his unique global “call for offers” process and marketing strategy, approved by Judge Dan Mike Byrd, led to his selection as the lead broker. A well-publicized stalking horse bid approach was used for the KC7 Ranch. This list goes on.
Speaking to the art of the deal, Uechtritz’s signature types of properties allow for a particular style of dealcraft. He explains, “My craft is to maximize the sales price for the seller, and simultaneously, maximize the opportunity set for the incoming buyer.” Both the Waggoner and Sandow Lakes Ranch illustrate the approach. While ranch properties have been his calling card of late, the strategic “Seal Team Six” factor resonates, beyond the ranch.
For Icon Global, the science of marketing a property includes certain processes. Many lack this discipline, instead focusing on listing quantity rather than quality. However, the very nature of the product and the limited numbers of high-level prospects dictate this approach. The sales effort requires a strategic closed-end process with a definitive beginning and end, controlling all of the elements of the sales and marketing program. It is a practiced, studied and tested methodology. Control is an essential element as well and intrinsic to the process, notes Uechtritz. The artform of the deal is the storytelling aspect, pivoting when plans need to adapt, churning the market—all contributing to the finish line.
A state-of-the-art marketing campaign that utilizes various forms of media, social media analytics, and video is just one feature along the journey. Here though, the qualities of the property come to life. In a latest listing, the Turkey Track Ranch is revealed as a natural marvel and oasis in the Texas Panhandle, with its 80,000 acres under one fence. Backed up with aerial videography—that went viral— panning across the landscape, its expansive and unique combination of surface water and springs are considered ‘rare’ in fact, by acclaimed ranch photographer Wyman Meinzer. A long-time, seasoned ranch manager relays how their complementary grazing practices for cattle and wildlife have led to an improved asset base, sustainable land management as its best. The sound of the ocean rushes through the leaves of swaying cottonwood trees, as the wind blows. . . View Video Here
Confidentiality Maintains Integrity
Importantly, though, finding and incorporating the appropriate buyer, the next steward, is a vetting process. There are first- and last-mile conditions for screening buyers before they ever have access to information, the data room, much less the property. Also inherent in the process is strict confidentiality. Uechtritz explains, “I operate in a virtual Fort Knox of confidentiality. It is a core tenet in all of the property sales in which I am involved.”
Confidentiality serves the best interests of everyone in the process. Ultimately, its purpose is to protect the seller, the buyer, and the integrity of the deal. In the Waggoner sale—only the night before—when the four finalists were to present and bid the next day in front of the families, did anyone on the selling side learn the identity of the finalist and ultimate winning bidder Stan Kroenke. No one knew. Not the families, not the receiver, not even Sam Middleton, Uechtritz’s sales partner. “Kroenke’s team and I operated in a complete vault of secrecy for almost a year prior,” Uechtritz emphasized.
According to Uechtritz, the international franchise brokerage firm and ranch division with whom he was once associated was particularly incapable of confidentiality. Further, “they really had no active role per se in most aspects of the deal or its success; they were last to know and only after the news broke publicly,” he says. “They did, however, jump on the media bandwagon, much to the chagrin of those actively involved.”
This strict unbreakable-vow code operated again in the sale of Barefoot Ranch. Originating from a locally-based broker, the seller requested Icon Global’s participation as it required a sophisticated skill set and global outreach. More recently, with the Alcoa-Sandow Lakes sale, the referring brokers who operated within a multinational industrial sales firm only learned of the close after receiving their six-plus figure referral fee commission check, which Uechtritz had promised over a handshake six years earlier. That team had written off the Sandow deal years ago to an impossible, ‘never-going-to-happen’ category. They had long forgotten about the fee agreement. Uechtritz did not—paying them first. From the broker team lead, he received an emotional text of gratitude in response to their surprise check. The broker respectfully acknowledged Uechtritz’s gesture, expressing that ‘he loved a handshake deal.’
Importantly, shrouding these types of transactions with secrecy creates trust and maintains the integrity of the overall process. “These factors—secrecy, trust, and integrity—are vital imperatives in deals at the level in which I operate,” Uechtritz unapologetically states.
Bespoke Equals Value
True to the methods and processes developed over time, a framework of bespoke solutions has emerged. These very processes and tenets are the foundation of Icon Global’s forward action in bringing clients, land and vision to a close—and adding value along the way. “The success of doing big deals isn’t just dollars and cents,” says Uechtritz. “It’s about the intangible nuances, as well as the many psychological factors that arise as seller, potential buyer, and the details of property and transaction converge.”
According to Glen Johnson, the attorney for the majority-ownership side of the Waggoner estate, Uechtritz’s ability to motivate himself and others was key in the realization of the final price of the Waggoner, listed at $725 million. The sale of the century, thus far, was a complex global marketing effort. But for Uechtritz, part of the complexity stemmed from navigating the many personalities involved and roughly two dozen lawyers at the close. Some deals are more complicated with people factors, others because of the complexity of the property’s assets, as in the case of the Alcoa-Sandow Lakes Ranch deal. By comparison, roughly 10,000 documents were part of the Waggoner data room, while more than a hundred thousand were scanned over Alcoa’s six-year sales life, including roughly 18,000 documents with the buyers closing file.
In late 2015, near the finish line of the Waggoner sale, the global industrial firm Alcoa was referred to Icon Global. The 31,000 acres of Texas farmland and industrial assets, including one of the world’s largest decommissioned aluminum smelters, were ultimately sold for $240 million on November 1, 2021. Aside from the redevelopment of the property, with its massive water resources, adding tenants and revenue streams was part of the process to derive and achieve the final price tag. The reclaimed mine and industrial site, now known and re-branded by Uechtritz as Sandow Lakes Ranch in 2016, includes significantly improved agricultural land, water and solar resources, along with intermodal, technology, and other industrial capabilities. “After a six-year-long marketing odyssey, maintaining momentum and the value proposition of the project was a huge challenge,” offers Uechtritz. Among one was an anchor tenant, a power provider, that went into bankruptcy, creating a two-year marketing standstill.
The partnership with key management from Alcoa and the shared vision with Icon Global were instrumental in accomplishing the sale. “My success was critically dependent upon the success of the revenue streams required to realize the value of the project,” Uechtritz offers. “Were it not for the vision and the revenue streams that were created under Alcoa manager Tommy Hodges’ leadership, the value would have never been realized.”
The value creation arising from the redevelopment project-turned-ranch offers many powerful lessons for the future. What is old is new, for example, as in the wetlands and stream restoration mitigation banking initiative posed by Uechtritz for the Camp Cooley Ranch sale of the early 2010s. “At the time, blank stares, even laughter came from brokers and prospects,” he added. “Now this is a mainstream, accepted practice and a value-add for well-located ranches.” Even the water resources of Sandow Lakes became a major factor in the siting decision for Samsung’s $17 billion chip manufacturing facility. In the future, more innovations in sustainable development will follow. “Natural capital,” the concept of natural resources being an asset, is in full bloom.
With an ever-changing landscape of market conditions, new categories of buyers, and ways to market properties, this super-asset class is increasingly receiving national recognition. Known for its prolific deals of scale and complexity, Icon Global always rises to the occasion of the next deal. “You’re only as good as your next deal, not your last,” says Uechtritz.
While national treasures such as the Waggoner and Turkey Track Ranches evolve legacies, all of these ‘one of one’ properties have their important stories and place. Icon Global recognizes its genuine responsibility in advancing their histories—one uniquely-crafted deal at a time.
What’s Next for Icon Global
“It has been a long and humbling road. Icon Global wasn’t inherited from my father or grandfather; I didn’t buy it off the shelf, like a franchise or a big-box brand with a playbook. It’s been built from the ground-up, deal by deal, success by success, including the over 30 years of challenges spanning all types of complex real estate deals. For a New Guinea boy from the bush, this great ride is a constant learning experience; I have been very fortunate. With a knack and passion for this work, it’s not over—the best is yet to come!”
Current Plays: Adena Springs Farm-Lexington, Kentucky
“It’s an incredible privilege to be marketing one of the Thoroughbred racing world’s most renowned horse farms and global brands. Capable of managing 1,000 horses, with 250 stalls and over 2,300 acres, it is one of the two largest of its kind. I began my American dream and journey in Lexington, working for the state wage of $4.83 an hour back in 1986. Returning to Kentucky all of these years later and representing one of the region’s crown jewels is truly surreal and an absolute honor.”
On the Team Approach
“There is no one-size-fits-all in my sector of the business. Sure, I am ultimately both the architect of marketing strategy and the quarterback of the transaction, however, I have a good team in the engine room. In the end, we are just one team of several teams within any deal’s success. For example, in the case of Sandow Lakes, given Tommy Hodges’ 40-plus years of stewardship at Alcoa, his vision and forethought came before my five years of engagement. Then, I was fortunate to find, in the extraordinary leader of Xerbec, my ‘committee of one’—who not only understood my sales vision and value-add hypotheses, but more so, in ways entirely beyond my imagination. For the next twelve months, our respective teams merged, conjoined, and trusted each other. We worked seamlessly to get everyone involved across the finish line.”
“Some people call me lucky. I can categorically tell you that luck only occurs at the intersection of hard work, planning, tenacity, instinct, experience and resolve.”
“Icon Global sells ‘one of ones’ … the unique, the complex, the improbable, sometimes even the impossible. Icon Global and I are one in the same, but it is the culmination of over 30 years of figuring out how to sell the difficult properties and improving on successful selling methods. After each success, the key is to reset to zero, go again and keep learning.”
“We have a pipeline of great opportunities. We are strategically increasing our sales presence with key agents, alignments and other resources. I am grateful for where we are—and excited about where we are going.”
214-855-4000 • Info@Icon.Global