About 65,000 acres of Highlands and DeSoto counties are for sale.
Atlanticblue in Lake Wales announced Wednesday its intention to sell its assets, which include Blue Head Ranch – 100 square miles of cattle and crops in southwest Highlands County and two square miles of blueberries in DeSoto County.
Depending on the improvements, whether it's planted in citrus, timber, vegetables or just open pasture, the land could be worth from $3,000 to $5,000 an acre, said Chip Boring, broker with RE/MAX Plus Realty in Sebring. That makes Blue Head potentially worth $195 million to $325 million.
Southern Farms, 7,700 acres south of Blue Head, sold last month. It was listed for $38.5 million, according to landwatch.com.
Blue Head leases land for hunting and cattle grazing, and farmland for specialty crops and vegetable leases. Cooling and packing facilities are available at the same location, along with an airport.
Atlanticblue is a real estate management, acquisition and development company with a demonstrated understanding of responsible land management with properties in Central and South Central Florida. Atlanticblue is a 50 percent stakeholder in Alico, a publically traded land management company with 130,400 acres of citrus groves, sugar cane, and cattle ranches in Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Polk counties. Alico also receives oil and rock mine royalties.
Former State Sen. JD Alexander, Alico's president and CEO, represented Highlands County in the Florida Legislature until 2012. He said Atlanticblue will "explore the potential sale of substantially all of their assets during the 2013 calendar year."
An amended Schedule 13D was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Jan. 29.
David Koon, Atlantic Blue CEO, said the sale is motivated by "the current business climate, along with recent changes in tax law."
"A lot of landholders are concerned about the new tax rates," Boring said. "They want to become more liquid."
In the past two years, Blue Head Ranch, owned substantially by the children and grandchildren of Ben Hill Griffin Jr., was paid more than $55 million by the federal government for conservation rights to about one-fifth of its land.
Even so, Blue Head was given permission in 2011 by the Highlands County commission to develop a new city with up to 12,000 apartments and houses on 3,000 acres by 2030; eventually up to 30,000 homes on 7,500 acres, plus 10 million square feet of retail, offices, industrial spaces and up to 900 hotel rooms could be constructed.
Blue Head is also in the path the proposed future Heartland Parkway, a toll road that would run north and south from just east of Fort Myers to Lakeland.
According to a Jan. 2, 1985 Financial Wire post, Ben Hill Griffin Inc. of Frostproof purchased 40,000 acres of ranchland from the estate of Edna Carlton for about $10.6 million. Then, said Highlands County Property Appraiser Raymond McIntyre, Griffin added the ranches and dairy farms around the core. "There were a lot of holdings around that."
The common stock of Alico Inc. is traded over the NASDAQ counter under the symbol ALCO. It opened Wednesday at $44.14, just 86 cents lower than its 52-week high.