ASPEN " Energy magnate Bill Koch has thrown down $26,455,000 to buy the Elk Mountain Lodge, ending an era for the compound used for weddings and other special events.
The 17-bedroom, 28,000- square-foot lodge compound, which includes a swimming pool and tennis court, sits on 52 acres near the ghost town of Ashcroft. The sale closed Tuesday.
First a homestead in 1907, then a dude ranch in the 1930s, the Elk Mountain Lodge became a popular wedding and event venue in the late 1980s.
The property sold for $ 3.5 million in 1992 and was listed for $ 24.5 million before it went under contract in September 2006, according to county records and published reports. It was listed as one of the most expensive ski homes in the U.S. by Forbes in 2005.
Pitkin County commissioners granted Koch's representatives approval to turn the lodge into a single family home in April.
"Now, it's just the usual building permit stuff," said Glenn Horn, the planner for the project. "They have to pretty much gut the place and build the interior of a building that was never really completed."
The original builder in the late-1980s remodel ran out of money, and later developers left the open plan of the building and turned the main structure into an events hall, Horn said.
"There's nothing in it. ... It's just a big shell," Horn said.
Koch will make the building into a house with plans that include a new septic system and extensive landscaping, Horn said.
"They're going full speed ahead. They're submitting for building plans this summer and they want to do work as soon as they get their permits," Horn said.
Koch is majority owner of the energy firm Oxbow Corp. He lost a protracted, public legal battle with two brothers over stake in the family oil business, Koch Industries, in 1998.
One area wedding planner is upset at the loss of the space.
"There is no other location like it. It's magic," said Elizabeth Slossberg, owner of EKS Events in Basalt.
Slossberg has been hosting weddings and events at the Elk Mountain Lodge for eight years and called the conversion to a private home "so sad."
"It was such an amazing event facility. Like no other," Slossberg said. "We've had to really get creative."
While the loss of the facility hasn't affected her business, Slossberg said since the lodge was listed in September 2006 she has hosted events in private homes, on top of the mountain and in tents on area lawns.
"I'm probably going to be the only event planner who's happy about this," said Tricia McIntyre, owner of the private concierge and event-planning business, Aloho Aspen, as well as Aspen Luxury Rentals.
" For me, I'm getting business from it," McIntyre said, because she not only plans the events but also rents out area homes to planners.