Billionaire Koch building private Old West town
August 20, 2012
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Energy billionaire Bill Koch is known for spending lavishly to buy Western artifacts, and now he’s building his own old West town in Colorado.
The Denver Post reported Monday (http://tinyurl.com/9cz72ru) the town is on Koch’s 10-square-mile Bear Ranch near the Raggeds Wilderness Area in Gunnison County, roughly 125 miles southwest of Denver.
The unpopulated town has about 50 full-size buildings, including a saloon, jail, livery and train station. Koch’s project manager told Gunnison County officials the town was built for Koch, his family and friends and won’t be open to the public.
“It’s the kind of stuff I guess you would expect a billionaire to construct,” said Ramon Reed, chairman of the Gunnison County Planning Commission. “It’s like something out of a ‘Gunsmoke’ movie set.”
Koch is president of the Oxbow Group, based in Palm Beach, Fla., which operates the Elk Creek coal mine in western Colorado. Forbes estimates his net worth at close to $4 billion.
His billionaire brothers, David and Charles Koch, are best known for making for big contributions to conservative causes.
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Bill Koch is known for collecting rare wine, winning the America’s Cup sailing race and buying up valuable Western memorabilia that comes up for sale.
He paid $2.3 million for a photograph of Billy the Kid at an auction last year. He bought out the Buckskin Joe Western town near Canon City for $3.1 million in 2010.
He also owns the former Elk Mountain Lodge, converted to a private residence, south of Aspen.
The newspaper said Koch was not available to comment on his old West town.
The Gunnison County Planning Commission recently approved a 21,000-square-foot residence for Koch above the town.
Reed said Gunnison County does not restrict the size of residences, but Koch’s mansion went before the planning commission because of a regulation that a residence that big must not be obtrusive. Reed said a third of the mansion will be underground and the building will be blocked by a hillside. Koch’s designer and project manager agreed to tone down lighting so it won’t shine into the Raggeds Wilderness.