In late January, networks and newspapers from coast to coast began broadcasting the breaking story of the largest land sale in decades as John Malone acquired more than 1 million acres of Maine timberland – as well as a grove or two in neighboring New Hampshire – from GMO Renewables. The transaction immediately vaulted Malone from his No. 5 position to the top of the Land Report 100, displacing his good friend Ted Turner with a total of 2.2+ million acres.
In the business world, Liberty Media’s chairman enjoys an outstanding reputation as a keen dealmaker. His hometown newspaper, The Denver Post, described him as having “few equals when it comes to structuring complex, hardball financial deals.” Given the multitude of investment options at his disposal, why did Malone park more than $100 million in Maine land?
Malone already had strong ties to Maine. Gary Bahlkow in LandVest’s Portland, Maine, office has been working with the Malones on a variety of timberland investment projects over the last 15 years. While not on the market, LandVest identified the GMO property as a prime target during due diligence.
“We knew GMO had created value by building a very userfriendly property,” Bahlkow says. “They had fresh and very credible inventory data to audit and project forest growth models from. Another consideration was that GMO had worked the operational kinks out of the long-term fiber supply agreement with two IP [International Paper] mills now owned by Verso. First-class forest management on a sustainable basis was essential to John Malone. GMO worked in good faith to make certain that was part of the package.”