Brandon Park, the 28,100-acre former estate of William A. Rockefeller, Jr. (a co-founder of Standard Oil with his brother John D. Rockefeller) has been purchased by Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma of China for $23 million according to the Wall Street Journal. Alibaba is the world’s largest e-commerce company. The property was put on the market in 2012, and the sale was completed in May of this year.
He bought the property “principally for conservation purposes, but also plans to use [it] as an occasional personal retreat,” the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a spokesman for Ma. Brandon Park is located west of Paul Smiths and north of the St. Regis Canoe Area and includes about eight miles of the Middle Branch of the St. Regis River, nearly a dozen trout ponds, and 2,200-foot Buck Mountain.
Ma is chairman of the China board of the Nature Conservancy and is a member of the global board. The Nature Conservancy introduced Ma to the property the Journal said. Ma has extensive experience in conservation projects in China, including co-founding the Sichuan Nature Conservation Foundation and the Laohegou Nature Reserve in Sichuan, which protects giant panda habitat and is the first protected area managed by a non-governmental organization in China.
Brandon Park is one of the largest wildernesses sold to a private buyer in the last 30 years. It draws its name from the village of Brandon, which was already in decline at the turn of the 20th century when Rockefeller purchased it and the surrounding land. Rockefeller posted the property launching a dispute with local residents chronicled in Lawrence Gooley’s 2007 award-winning book Oliver’s War.
Until her death in 2000, the property was owned by Wilhelmina du Pont Ross. An easement Ross donated to the Nature Conservancy in 1978 bans commercial development except for the construction of nine residences and logging operations which are ongoing on some of the property. The estate includes about 40 miles of roads, and numerous other structures, including homes, guest cabins, a fish hatchery, a sugaring operation, lean-tos, and more.
The Wall Street Journal story can be found here.
Photo of Brandon Park from prospectus prepared by Merrill L. Thomas Inc.