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Broome Ranch Auction Fizzles With 1 Low Bid : Real estate: Executors of the 640-acre property sought $10 million for the land. They reject state's $2.5-million offer.


It was supposed to be a big-deal auction, but quickly turned into nothing more than a free lunch for would-be bidders of the 640-acre Broome Ranch near Thousand Oaks.

More than 100 people turned out for Thursday's heavily promoted Western-theme auction, which featured free barbecued chicken wings and burgers "right off the chuck wagon." But when it came down to serious business, only four parties shelled out the $200,000 registration fee qualifying each as a bidder.

The executors of the Broome Ranch estate were hoping to secure $10 million or more for the land. But the day's single offer came from state park officials for $2.5 million.

"I'm begging you to steal it for $5.5 million," pleaded auctioneer Mario Piatelli, frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm among bidders.

But the only hands raised were those of people trying to shoo away bees buzzing around their heads.

With no other offers forthcoming, David Hardacre, an attorney representing the landowner, rushed the auctioneer's table.

"I hope everybody had a nice lunch," he said, waving the crowd off with his hand. "See you all later. It's over."

Later, Hardacre said the property would probably be taken off the market for three or four years. He said the ranch is a prime parcel worth far more than was offered by public parks officials.

"Unfortunately, the public missed a real opportunity today by being too greedy," he said, referring to state park officials' refusal to increase their bid. "They're tough, but sometimes you can be too tough."

Other bidders were reluctant to say why they didn't join in the bidding or if they planned to pursue acquisition of the property through private negotiations.

In addition to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the state park agency that offered the $2.5 million, the three other registered bidders were Shappell Industries, landowner Jack Broome, who owns property next to the estate, and North Hollywood developer Walton Emmick.

Piatelli speculated that one reason others may have been reluctant to place bids was because it was an all-cash deal.

"There are not a lot of people who have 7 or 8 million in cash today," he said. "Money is short. This is the worst time in the past 10 years to be selling any kind of real estate."

Piatelli said the Broome Ranch estate spent $50,000 promoting Thursday's event. The sale of the property, which sits at the western edge of Thousand Oaks, was advertised all over the country and throughout Europe and the Pacific Rim.

"We're very disappointed," he said.

Meanwhile, state parks officials said they are still interested in acquiring the Broome Ranch property, which serves as the gateway to an unbroken stretch of state and federal parkland that sweeps through Point Mugu State Park to the ocean.

The National Park Service, the city of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Park and Recreation District are also interested in acquiring portions of the ranch to preserve it as open space. Officials at each agency said they might be willing to buy pieces of the ranch from the conservancy if it acquires the entire 640-acre tract.

But Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the conservancy, said his agency was not in a financial position Thursday to make a bid of $5.5 million, apparently the minimum amount that the estate would have accepted.

Before Thursday's auction, Edmiston said the park agency's bid would be limited to the state's own appraised value of the land.

He refused to say if the $2.5-million offer he made reflected the appraised value or was simply an opening bid. But he said he was startled that no other offers were made.

"I was a little surprised when it got down to $2.5 million, that there were no other offers," he said. "But on the other hand, it was being done on an all-cash basis."

Jerome Daniel, chairman of the conservancy, said the agency had acted responsibly in its refusal to raise its bid.

"The public won today," Daniel said. "We did what we were supposed to, and that is not to spend the public's money wildly."

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