One of the richer men in South Dakota is trying to get out of South Dakota. 2009 lottery winner Neal Wanless has been trying to sell his 65-square-mile Meade County ranch since 2020.
65 square miles—that’s 19% bigger than Rapid City, which is 54.77 square miles. That’s 59% the size of Custer State Park, which is 71,000 acres, or 111 square miles. That’s 1.8% of Meade County, which is 3,471 square miles, the largest county in South Dakota.
Sure, the ranch has shops and barns and a couple houses that are too darned big, but look at all that open space, as far from any busy road as you can get in South Dakota. Imagine the bison preserve a guy (or a gal) could build on that land, or the shooting range, or the mountain bike trails, or all three. I could just put up a cabin near the confluence of Nine Mile Creek and the Belle Fourche River, write every morning, then go out biking on the open plains chasing the thousand wild horses… if only blogging and biking could pay the $111,706 annual property tax.
But somehow, at his offering price of $41.15 million, Wanless got no takers. So after two years of trying, Wanless has dropped his ask to $37.5 million.
But wait: why would Wanless, who took an $88.5 million lump-sum payment after taxes out of a $232-million Powerball jackpot thirteen years ago, wander away from all that wonder for any price?
As to why Wanless is selling the property, [Hall and Hall agent Robb] Nelson cites a lack of use, telling KELOLAND News that Wanless “married a gal from Canada,” and that they spend much of their time between British Columbia and a property they own in Arizona [Jacob Newton, “Powerball Winner Looking for Buyer of South Dakota Ranch,” KELO-TV, 2022.05.11].
Wait a minute—South Dakota rags-to-riches ranch kid gets a whole bunch of money, and prefers to live in Arizona, which has a state income tax, and British Columbia, which has provincial income tax, national sales tax, single-payer health care, and all sorts of other socialism? Wanless explained his preference for those far-flung taxing locales over low-tax South Dakota when he put the Bismarck Trail Ranch on the market in 2020:
Mr. Wanless, 34, said he is selling because he and his new wife, Jody Gilson Wanless, are spending more time at her family’s cattle ranch in Canada’s British Columbia. They also recently purchased a house in Arizona, where they plan to spend the winters. “I like the South Dakota winters, but I don’t like the wind,” he said [Katherine Clarke, “South Dakota Cowboy Who Won $232.1 Million Powerball Lists $41.15 Million Ranch,” Wall Street Journal, 2020.09.02].
Wind?! Well, that blows away the argument that South Dakota is super-attractive to the super-wealthy… that and the fact that no millionaires have swooped in to buy this spectacular property.