Molokai Ranch for Sale
1/3 of the island listed for $260M
Thirty-five percent of Molokai — 55,575 acres — owned by Molokai Ranch, is up for sale for $260 million. The property went on the market Thursday, Sept. 7, and includes more than 300 parcels on the island — making it one of the top five privately owned properties in the state. The decision to sell by Singapore-based land holder owner GL Limited comes almost a decade after the company shut down its Maunaloa lodge, theater, golf course and other operations in 2008.
Scott Carvill of Carvill Sotheby’s International Realty, the broker listing the property, said GL is looking for a legacy buyer rather than a developer.
“The $260 million price point puts it out of the reach for developers to split up the land and make a profit,” said Carvill. “We see someone coming in to buy it not for development, but for themselves… We want the buyers to understand the community.”
Carvill explained that at its listing price, qualified buyers are limited to the billionaire category — of which there are about 2,000 in the world.
Based on how the sellers have set up the sale, Carvill said a developer would be unlikely to make the purchase because “we’re not going to allow them the years it would take to do due diligence for development.”
“As an agent, I don’t have any control over who buys it [but] the marketing strategy for the seller is really to find the right buyer for the Ranch, and we think that goes hand in hand with the right person for the community,” he said. “There is care genuinely on the sales side. The buyer at this price point will do their research… they will look at everything and look into community and cultural sensitives before they decide to spend $260 million – it’s too much money not to get to know what you’re getting involved with.”
In the early 2000s, the community protested Molokai Ranch’s development plans for La`au Point, which would have included the sale of 200 lots for luxury homes. After abandoning its master plan, the Ranch shut down in April 2008, leaving about 120 employees without jobs. Ranch chief executive at the time, Peter Nicholas, called the decision “purely a business one” but acknowledged in a 2008 statement that the community’s opposition to the master plan left the company without funding for regular operations.
In 2014, Molokai Ranch revived its ranching operations and began raising Wagyu beef cattle, and has been holding annual rodeos to celebrate the paniolo lifestyle. In recent years, the company entertained partnerships with wind developers to produce large-scale renewable energy on its land, but the projects were abandoned. The Ranch also continues to operate its water system to the island’s west end.
Molokai Ranch currently has about two dozen local employees.
“[GL] really cares about the employees of the Ranch,” said Carvill. “I was over there [before the property went on the market] to let the local employees know what’s going on… It will more than likely be business as usual when a new owner takes over – very likely they’ll keep the current staff because they know the Ranch.”
Local Ranch management did not comment on the sale.
Along with the land, the sale includes the entire company and all its operations, according to Carvill. He added that all existing leases, easements and agreements will be carried forward as part of the sale.
As to the reason for selling, Carvill said the owners have decided to put their focus elsewhere.
“GL said their focus has been on their hotels in Europe and it’s time for someone else to step in and get the Ranch what it deserves,” he said.
While there have been rumors in recent years of the company reopening its lodge and hotel, Carvill said it was not in their plans.
While Carvill said selling to a developer is not the goal, the listing describes “an incomparable opportunity to acquire the largest collection of privately held real estate assets available in Hawaii.”
“The successful new owner will be among the top five private landowners in the state,” states the realty website. “The extensive lands of Molokai Ranch offer a remarkable combination of towering sea cliffs, secluded beaches, prime pastureland and tropical rainforests.”
The Ranch’s land holdings include 20 miles of the island’s coastline. In addition to its west end hotel properties and Kaluakoi and Papohaku acreage, the Ranch also owns 48,398 acres of west, central and southeast Molokai agricultural lands, 4,116 acres of forested conservation lands, 29 acres of commercial properties in the vicinity of Kaunakakai Wharf and Kaunakakai town and 85 acres of industrial properties at Maunaloa and Kualapu`u, among other parcels. Additionally, the company owns 222 acres of golf course properties — the currently closed Kaluakoi course, and the Ironwood Hills Golf Course in Kalae, currently operated by a third party lessee, according to the listing.
Carvill said the day after the listing became active, serious buyers had already expressed interest in the sale. It’s likely he will not be able to provide updates once the property is under contract, until the sale is finalized, Carvill added.
A group of community members, led by the Molokai Community Service Council, also started an initiative to raise money to buy the property. The campaign, called “Buy Molokai Ranch,” was initially launched several years ago in an effort to develop community-based ownership of the Ranch. A recently-created Facebook page by the same name has renewed the conversation.
“Imagine if our community owned the Ranch, reopening the Kaluakoi Resort, bringing back jobs, to our people who actually have a stake in the success of resort!” reads a Sept. 8 post on the page. “So many things could happen to make our people truly self sustained.”
Molokai social media discussion of the sale has been largely that of cautious optimism, with many expressing hope for new jobs resulting from the sale.
Carvill, who said he grew up on Oahu but visited Molokai frequently since he was young, said he sees how “special the community is.”
“I think it’s going to be a good change,” Carvill said of the sale. “I think the right buyer will find their way to Molokai.”