Press "Enter" to skip to content

Wanless Doubles Money on West River Ranch

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Neal Wanless isn’t. South Dakota’s biggest lottery winner ever finally sold his 65-square mile Bismarck Trail Ranch this week. He didn’t get the $41.5 million he originally wanted, but he still doubled his money:

Now he has sold that ranch for $37 million, more than double what he paid, according to listing agent Robb Nelson of Hall and Hall.

Mr. Nelson said to his knowledge, it is the most expensive ranch ever sold in the state. Previously, the record was held by the $32.4 million sale of the Triple U Ranch, which was featured in the movie “Dances with Wolves.” That property was purchased in 2015 by a company tied to media mogul and major American landowner Ted Turner, Mr. Nelson said.

Mr. Wanless listed the ranch in September 2020, asking $41.15 million. The price was later lowered to $37.5 million, Mr. Nelson said. He said the buyer is the Kansas-based farm and ranching outfit J-Six South Dakota Land Holdings, which is headed by Daniel E. Gerety II, corporation records show [Katherine Clarke, “South Dakota Cowboy Sells Ranch He Bought with $232.1 Million Powerball Winnings for $37 Million,” Wall Street Journal via Mansion Global, 2022.12.22].

Correction to the WSJ headline: Wanless’s jackpot was $232.1 million, but he took a lump sum payment that, after $30 million in taxes, was $88.5 million.

As reported last spring, Wanless is leaving South Dakota to poke cows at his wife’s family’s ranch in socialist Canada and to winter in sunny Arizona, where snowstorms don’t get in the way of business:

Mr. Nelson said the closing was delayed by more than a week because of blizzard and white-out conditions in the region. On three separate occasions, the truck delivering the closing paperwork had to turn around because of weather, he said [Clarke, 2022.12.22].

With those papers signed, we can wish happy trails to Mr. Wanless and hi-howdy to our new corporate real estate neighbors.


  1. grudznick 2022-12-23 11:51

    Good on that young man. He fell into some big money, had some fun, and then made more money with his other money.

  2. Jake 2022-12-23 12:16

    yep, as in a previous post, grudz, ‘big money’ is what makes your heart pump!

  3. P. Aitch 2022-12-23 12:36

    It was a bad business decision to take the “lump sum”. Lottery sets that up to entice suckers that see dollar signs with newfound, cloudy judgement. A South Dakota irrevocable trust fund would have been the better option. Just sayin’.
    Moving to Canada was a smart move, though.

  4. Richard Schriever 2022-12-23 12:59

    Yep. The lump sum payout was a bad decision. Evidently, he got some bad legal advice from an attorney who was unaware that people of great wealth do not spend any of their own money (including guaranteed future money), but simply use it as collateral against which living expenses and such are borrowed. Poor kid probably never anything but cash on hand as a frame-of-reference for consideration either. Oh well, if the wife is happy…………..

  5. bearcreekbat 2022-12-23 15:17

    So Richard & P.Aitch, Wanless ended up with $88.5 million dollars. Just out of curiosity, how would more money than that have improved his life or somehow made him better off? Or to put it another way, at what point does the accumulation of wealth began to yield either no returns or even diminshing returns to the holder of the wealth?

  6. e platypus onion 2022-12-23 15:33

    As I have mentioned before, like the bully do0g on the block who has 2 meaty bones and won’t share them. Problem is he can’t enjoy one because he is worried another dog(s) will take the other, so he enjoys neither.

  7. P. Aitch 2022-12-23 16:39

    @BCB asks how more than $88.5 million would improve someone’s life. I suppose it depends on how much he gives to charity and how it makes him feel about helping others. It doesn’t say if he has children but setting up your grandchildren to do charitable things would also be beneficial to your self-esteem, I suppose. I don’t think paying $30 million in unnecessary taxes made him feel very rewarded.

  8. P. Aitch 2022-12-23 16:52

    I’ve told this story on DFP before, so I’ll be brief.
    I’ve a sister-in-law who worked for an insurance company that sold trust funds to states that paid off those states’ lottery winners. It was Tammy’s job to cut checks to the winners whenever the winners were due a payout. Tammy was often contacted by those winners, and it was part of her job to listen to the winners complain and commiserate with them. Tammy says what many surveys have concluded. Lottery winners aren’t very happy people. Family usually won’t talk to them because of jealousy. It’s nearly impossible for winners to have friends because friends’ ulterior motives can’t be trusted.
    This story makes some people happy that lottery winners are generally miserable. I say, “Give me a chance. I promise I’ll be happy and pleasant around strangers.” #grins

  9. John 2022-12-23 17:03

    Good grief. Neal did a fine job and fine thing for his community. We’ll miss him. He bettered his life leaving regressive South Dakota.

    Taking the lump sum, even for a youngster, still makes sense. He is able to control that sum the day he received it — instead the future long-term payout is already worth -10% less due to inflation. By investing what Neal has now, he’s in a position to better control his future. Let’s hope he’s able to overcome his mediocre South Dakota high school education, as he apparently is.

    You second-guessers need to heed the wisdom of Joseph Heller (author of Catch-22) and Jack Bogle (wildly successful investor).
    Young Eric here is wise beyond his years. Why is no one in the South Dakota wild investment trust community imparting such wisdom weekly?

    Those who’ve had parents die with modest or great wealth stare at them in their coffins and graves, asking whether they thought they were going to take it with them. History shows us that future generations have a lousy track record sustaining family wealth – it rarely lasts 3 generations. All the best to Neal.

  10. larry kurtz 2022-12-23 17:24

    $20 says the Bismarck Trail Ranch on stolen treaty land will be an eight square mile subdivision as soon as it’s humanly possible.

  11. larry kurtz 2022-12-23 17:34

    Now that the B-21 will be housed at Ellsworth that ranch buyer had better hope President Putin’s ICBMs are well targeted unless that investment flips better as a crater, no?

  12. Richard Schriever 2022-12-23 18:46

    bcb – he spent half of it on a property he had limited ability to manage – because he’d always “dreamed” about being a “big rancher”. Lucky for him he found a buyer at a profit. One has to wonder how much he spent trying to run the place while losing money on those activities. His heirs (only had himself at the time of course) would have fared better with the timed pay-outs as well.

  13. bearcreekbat 2022-12-23 18:50

    I would guess the happiest lottery winners are those that feel good about being able to pay their fair share of taxes and still have more than enough left over to care for their families. Since it is impossible to hoard all the resources on the planet, those that seek to do are doomed to failure, which is probably not conducive to happiness.

  14. Richard Schriever 2022-12-23 18:50

    larry – the Bismark Trail Ranch is barely accessible on a paved road – let alone anywhere near to where any subdivision might appear. Been by there and had a look. I like to meander about and see things.

  15. Richard Schriever 2022-12-23 18:55

    bcb – I ascertained back around 2000 or so that in order to be considered “rich” in the day-and-age at the time, – not truly wealthy mind you, merely rich – that one should be able to comfortably LOSE $50M or so and not have that loss impact one’s lifestyle significantly.

    I would say Wanless got rich – out of sheer luck – as is the way most come by such a position in life.

  16. leslie 2022-12-24 02:44

    Bear, i have no idea how lottery even works nor do i care, and while your writing is superb in other current threads, using enormous wealth to change US and world policy for selfish aims is the whole idea behind what is wrong with hiding it behind South Dakota law and policy. It is why GM’s 1st electric cars were shelved decades ago. Climate denial. James Taylor sang:

    I used to think that I was cool
    Driving around on fossil fuel
    Then I found what I was doing …
    I wasn’t drving down the road
    Just the road to ruin

    RS: “people of great wealth do not spend any of their own money [secreted away in Sioux Falls] but simply use it as collateral against which living expenses and such [yachts, jets, Aspen and Amarillo enclaves, and Hawaiian islands] are borrowed.”

    They NEVER pay it back, I believe this source has stated.

    International Consortium of Investigatice Journalists (ICIJ) Director Gerard Ryle said whistleblowers … were vital to piercing secretive industries, like those that provide shelter to criminals and corrupt politicians, and said investigative journalism had a track record of triggering significant positive change for society. “Stories like the Panama Papers and Pandora Papers have brought global scrutiny to a secretive financial system that has thrived in the shadows for far too long,” he said. “ICIJ’s model brings together hundreds of the world’s best reporters to do what authorities can sometimes struggle to pull off — meaningful, unfettered collaboration across borders. Reporters working together can expose wrongdoing in a way that has a genuine impact, and gives the world an opportunity to right wrongs and change things for the better.”

    Just for fun, watch—

  17. larry kurtz 2022-12-24 07:03

    Greed builds roads into Indian Country all the time, Dick and I know Butte County better than most.

    Mr. Wanless bought the parcel on the banks of the polluted Belle Fourche River and even moved a thousand feral horses diverted from Bureau of Land Management pastures onto the sprawling property. No doubt South Dakota’s regressive property tax factored into Mr. Wanless’ choice to sell. A bill that would decrease that tax failed in the last session of the state’s deranged legislature.

  18. All Mammal 2022-12-24 09:08

    During a raucous supper-table convo back when all Dodie’s kids were still living at home, we landed on the subject of winning the lottery. One comment was something like, “I’ll never have to work again”,
    My ignorant one-up was something like, “Oh, yeah? Well, I’ll be so rich, my grandkids and I will never even have to go to school!”
    I have an idea what my mom meant when she said in her native tongue what sounded like, “Ugk vut”.

  19. Robb Nelson 2022-12-24 18:42

    A couple facts for your readers! He didn’t have to sell the ranch. He is very stable financially. In addition the buyers are not “corporate real estate” buyers. They are a family owned farming and ranching business. Facts are important in reporting!

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-12-25 07:48

    J-Six Enterprises is a corporation with over 550 employees in four states. J-Six South Dakota Land Holdings is a domestic limited partnership incorporated in Kansas on December 8, 2022, by J-Six CEO/co-owner Daniel E. Gerety II. J-Six SDLH LP is one of 13 corporations listed under he J-Six masthead in the Kansas Secretary of State’s business filings.

    J-Six is a large ag corporation that formed a corporation to buy this real estate (and another, J-Six South Dakota Operations, L.P., on December 5, 2022, apparently to manage whatever business activity Gerety and his fellow owners do on the Bismarck Ranch). J-Six is a “corporate real estate buyer”. Facts are important in reporting.

  21. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-12-25 07:58

    I like John’s read of the lump-sum advantage: take the money up front, look for ways to invest and grow the money beyond the value of the yearly payments the lottery offers, and captain your own financial destiny. I might take the yearly payments, just because I’m not a big financial risk taker and don’t want to spend my time monitoring and optimizing portfolio performance. But Wanless decided to take all the money up front and follow his own path. Wanless doubled his investment on the property—not bad. We’d have to figure taxes and operating costs and revenues to get the bottom line… but hard to factor into that bottom line is the decade or so of enjoyment he got from that remarkable stretch of land.

    But his life changed—he met a nice gal from Canada whose family has its own ranch up in the great white north, he realized it’s also nice to spend time in Arizona, and he evidently figured a guy has to stretch to take care of two big places, never mind three.

  22. Robb Nelson 2022-12-26 11:36

    J-six was founded by a family and is still owned and operated by the same family. The size of the company they built does not change that.

Comments are closed.