New owners tour The Ranch as construction resumes

Mark A. Moore/For the News Press The new owners of The Ranch toured the facility on Thursday. Pictured from left: Lori, Ed, Beverly and Joe Burgess, owners of Safari Hospitality, a Utah-based property management company involved in construction and hotel management.

Work has restarted on the Ranch, an upscale retirement village located on 55 acres on the north side of Stillwater near Lakeside golf course thanks to a change in ownership after the project went through foreclosure.

Work was suspended by the former general contractor in December 2017, several months after the company providing financing stopped paying bills for the ambitious project’s construction.

The project is estimated to be about 80 percent complete.

The trustee for the bond holders declared The Ranch to be in default on the terms of the bonds and foreclosed after the unpaid general and subcontractors began filing liens on the property.

The Ranch was placed in receivership by the Payne County court and ordered sold in the court proceeding.

Gellenbach Construction, Inc., a Guthrie company that was one of the sub-contractors awaiting payment on the project, emerged as the high bidder at an auction with a bid of $17.5 million.

After the court confirmed Gellenbach’s purchase on Nov. 30, the company, which is a construction contractor and not an operator of retirement communities, reached out to other companies that might be interested in operating the property.

That was how Gellenbach found Safari Hospitality, a full service property management company located in Cedar City, Utah that is involved in construction and hotel management.

The elder members of the family business are brothers Joe and Ed Burgess and their spouses, Beverly and Lori. The family was on site Thursday to inspect the property and oversee the work that has restarted on the Ranch.

Joe Burgess said the family business has been focused on construction and management of hotels. He says they are wanting to work with a company in Salt Lake City that has expertise in management of retirement community and negotiations are underway with that company. The family would like to finish the project and have it operate as a retirement home, he said.

Representatives of the Salt Lake City company were also present Thursday to review the project. Burgess said Stillwater Ranch Holdings LLC was formed to take ownership of the Ranch. The company is owned 50-50 by each brother’s families.

The company had taken a deed from the receiver for the property paying $17.5 million to the receiver and $2 million to Gellenbach to acquire its contractual rights to purchase the Ranch.

Thus, Gellenbach grossed $2 million dollars to take the risk of purchasing the property for $17.5 million when the previous stalking horse bidder had only submitted an initial bid of $12.4 million. Burgess is taking bids from companies to finish work on The Ranch and is willing to use subcontractors who were not paid for their prior work on the project. He is currently using a landscaper that was a party in the Ranch foreclosure case as a subcontractor who did not receive payment for its work.

Burgess said he was hopeful that the sub-contractors who previously worked on the project would be more willing to return following a hearing before Payne County Associate District Judge, Stephen Kistler but that was continued to May 3. Nevertheless, he wants to move forward with the project.

The Burgess family said they were impressed with the friendliness and hospitality shown to them in Stillwater. They are Utah Jazz basketball fans, but expressed a willingness to adopt Oklahoma State University and its Cowboys, since they aren’t in the same conference as Cedar City’s Southern Utah University.

Lori Burgess says she has Oklahoma connections because her father was from Caddo, Oklahoma.

The Burgess family said 100 people who had intended to move into The Ranch still have deposits on hold in an escrow account. They hope to work with those people to ensure anyone who still wants to live at The Ranch has the opportunity.

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