By Ann McCreary
The new owners of Tice Ranch, Laura and Robert Howson of Twisp, plan to move into the main lodge on the estate within about a month, and will maintain the 305-acre property as a ranch.
The Howsons bought the landmark Tice Ranch, located on Highway 20 southeast of Twisp, in an auction on Oct. 16 for $3.108 million.
Robert Howson said the couple plans to live in the 15-bedroom, 20,000-square-foot main lodge and have no intentions to subdivide or develop the property and will keep the Tice Ranch name.
“The property will not be broken up. It will remain as a ranch. It’s not going to be developed,” Howson said in an interview after the auction.
“A lot of people were questioning, wondering what would happen [when the property was sold]. There will be no big surprises,” Howson said.
It will be a short move for the Howsons, who now live about one-half mile from Tice Ranch, within view of the property, in a home they purchased and remodeled after moving to the Methow Valley about seven years ago from Park City, Utah.
Before going to auction this fall, Tice Ranch had been listed for sale for by Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty for $4.5 million.
“We’re neighbors, and we thought about it on and off for a long time. The auction came up pretty quickly,” Howson said.
“When we saw this property was going to auction we decided to look into it and ended up buying it,” he said.
The ranch was auctioned with all furnishings and ranch equipment. The lodge is furnished with turn-of-the century antique furniture from London.
The property also includes two smaller furnished guest lodges and a caretaker’s residence, a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, horse stables, organic fruit orchards, a stocked fishing pond and 100 acres of irrigated hay fields.
A half-dozen prospective buyers, all from Washington state, registered and bid on the property for more than 30 minutes, according to Craig King of J.P. King Auction Company, which conducted the auction and specializes in high-end luxury homes, estates and ranches.
Inquiries came from New York, Arizona and Texas as well as Washington. One of the bidders participated by phone from southern California, according to King.
Developed in 1970s
The Tice Ranch property was purchased and developed in the 1970s by Diane and Lou Tice, founders of the Pacific Institute, a Seattle-based corporation specializing in leadership development. The ranch served as a corporate retreat and event venue, and hosted many concerts, national and international gatherings, and celebrities over the years.
After Lou Tice, a motivational speaker, died in 2012, the property was listed for sale until Diane Tice decided to auction the property and everything on it.
The day after the auction, the Howsons met with Diane Tice on the ranch.
“She was very gracious. We spent an hour and a half … to hear the stories about the house and property,” Howson said. “That was very important. It let her meet us, and us meet her.
“We wanted to be sure she would allow the name of Tice Ranch to stay on the property,” Howson said. “She was thrilled. It’s a recognizable brand. There is even a cattle brand for the ranch.”
Howson said he and Laura will be “looking for viability” in operating Tice Ranch. “We may have some corporate retreats. We are looking at crops … what will make it viable.”
A retired Delta Airlines pilot who served until recently as Twisp Municipal Airport manager, Howson said he doesn’t have experience in ranching or agriculture, but expects to employ people who do. “I’m not going to be the one ranching and farming, but somebody will … be the ones doing the ranching and farming.”
The main lodge is a large home by most standards, but Howson said it will be fine for him and Laura. Their home in Park City was 10,000 square feet, he said.
“We had a large home in Park City so we’re kind of used to large houses,” he said.
The main lodge on the ranch has 15 bedrooms and 20 bathrooms, mostly en-suite. It has a great room that seats 30 guests around a large fireplace, where the auction was held.
The lodge has an original 1876 pub, with a history of a fatal bar fight, which was imported from England and reconstructed in the lodge.
It also has a Western-style saloon stocked with gifts from friends and clients of the Tices.
Over the years, Tice Ranch hosted large outdoor concerts for more than 5,000 people. Among the guests who visited or attended events at the ranch were Fortune 500 executives, the Seattle Mariners and other professional and college sports teams, NASA officials, and Vicente Fox, president of Mexico.