Cattle battle: Texas breeder, Bill Koch await ruling over Bear Ranch herd
Part-time Pitkin County resident Bill Koch faces a $23 million verdict from a Texas jury over a dispute regarding high-end cattle he breeds at his Bear Ranch near Somerset, some 70 miles outside of Aspen. But until a judge issues a final decree, money won’t change hands and the fate of the Japanese cattle remain unclear.
“We’ve been waiting for some time, unfortunately, but Judge (Gregg) Costa is working on his written product that will include a final judgment and whatever decision he’s made for a remedy,” said Jason Powers, a Houston attorney for HeartBrand Beef Inc., a Flatonia, Texas, company that specializes in Akaushi cows and bulls.
A federal jury in Victoria, Texas, returned the eight-figure verdict in May 2014 following an anti-trust trial held before Costa. The verdict, however, was advisory only. Costa, who was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th District during last year’s trial, has the final say.
“He’s got a measure of discretion here because of the nature of the cause of action that was pled,” Powers said.
Koch’s Bear Ranch includes an Old West-style town and a cattle ranch. It’s among his vast portfolio of properties, which includes his Castle Creek Road estate, located just outside of Aspen, that is on the market for $100 million.
In 2012, Koch, who is the brother of Republican powerbrokers Charles and David, sued HeartBrand. The suit claimed that when Bear Ranch bought 424 Akaushi cattle from HeartBrand for $2.4 million in 2011, the contract was anti-competitive and illegal because it restricted the ranch’s sale of the cattle in the U.S.
HeartBrand countersued alleging breach of contract, partly because Bear Ranch grew its Akaushi herd to 4,000 cattle. The jury agreed, finding that Bear Ranch was unjustly enriched by the purchase.
Powers said Costa could order Bear Ranch to return some cattle to HeartBrand.
“We’re not sure,” he said. “That’s one of the things the judge has on his menu at this point. We have asked for the return of cattle. It seems that a portion of the cattle Bear Ranch will get to keep, but we are still hopeful that a portion comes back to us.”
While both sides are awaiting the judge’s final order, Bear Ranch filed a motion July 2 to reopen the evidence.
Four days later, Costa denied the motion, writing, “The court is already in the process of drafting a ruling on HeartBrand’s motion for judgment. Nothing discussed in the motion to reopen would impact the court’s ruling.”
Bear Ranch’s lead attorney in the case, R. Paul Yetter, did not return a telephone message Tuesday.
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